Black Chicks That Rule: Dr. Mae Jemison

Photo: NASA

Have you heard the expression “reach for the moon and if you fail at least you’ll land among the stars”? Meet Dr. Mae Jemison who exemplifies that expression as the first black woman in space. She was the first black woman to be admitted into NASA’s astronaut training program in 1987. On September 12, 1992 she made history by becoming the first black woman to travel into space aboard the Endeavour.

Dr. Jemison was born in Decatur, Alabama in 1956 to a roofer/carpenter father and elementary school teacher mother. At the age of three her family moved to Chicago, Illinois so she would have better education opportunities. After graduating as an honor student from Morgan Park High School where she excelled at the sciences she attended the famed Stanford University receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering. She was well-rounded during her college days participating in extracurricular activities such as dance and theater, as well as serving as the head of the Black Student Union. After enrolling in Cornell University Medical College she further expanded her horizons by studying in Cuba and Kenya. She continued on a path of medicine spending time in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone and Liberia and interning at Los Angeles County/University of Southern California Medical Center. Then in 1985 she answered a calling that had been within her all along.

She applied to NASA’s program in 1985 only to have her application deferred due to the space shuttle Challenger crash. She applied again the following year and was one of 15 candidates selected out of 2,000 applicants. She trained for about a year then took off with six other crew members into space as a Science Mission Specialist. She spent eight days in space conducting research on weightlessness and motion sickness.

Since that time she has been awarded several honors and accolades including several honorary doctorates, the Essence Science and Technology Award, the Ebony Black Achievement Award, Montgomery Fellowship from Dartmouth College just to name a few. In 1993 after leaving the astronaut corp she accepted a teaching fellowship at Dartmouth. Today she spends here time with her organization the Jemison Foundation and touting the importance of a science and math education, especially for girls. You can visit her website at

As if all of that isn’t enough she is the only real astronaut to cameo on any episode within the Star Trek franchise when she appeared on The Next Generation.

Here from Dr. Jemision in her own words.


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