Mae Jemison: First Black Woman to Travel to Space

Mae Jemison is a trailblazer and an inspiration to many people around the world. Born on October 17, 1956, in Decatur, Alabama, Jemison had a passion for science from a young age. She grew up in Chicago, Illinois, where she excelled in school and pursued her dream of becoming an astronaut. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from Stanford University in 1977 and a Doctor of Medicine degree from Cornell University in 1981.


Photo courtesy of National Women’s History Museum

However, Jemison’s dream of becoming an astronaut did not come easy. In 1983, she applied to the NASA astronaut training program, but the program was put on hold after the Challenger disaster in 1986. She reapplied in 1987 and was one of the 15 candidates selected out of 2,000 applicants. On September 12, 1992, Jemison became the first African American woman to travel to space as a mission specialist on the Space Shuttle Endeavour.


During her eight-day mission, Jemison conducted experiments on the effects of weightlessness and motion sickness on the human body. She also performed many demonstrations for students and teachers back on Earth, including demonstrating Newton’s Laws of Motion in space.


After leaving NASA in 1993, Jemison continued to pursue her passion for science and education. She founded the Jemison Group, a company that focuses on research and development in technology and education, and also established the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, which aims to improve education in science and technology among students in underserved communities.


Jemison has received numerous awards and honors for her contributions to science, education, and public service. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993 and received the National Organization for Women’s Intrepid Award in 1997. She was also named one of the 50 most important African Americans in technology by the Silicon Valley Business Journal in 2014.

In addition to her impressive career achievements, Jemison is a role model for young women and girls around the world. She has been a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion in the sciences and has worked to encourage more women and people of color to pursue careers in STEM fields.