Black in the Day…To Infinity and Beyond
September 12, 1992:
On this day Dr. Mae Jemison became the first African-American woman in space when she launched from the Kennedy Center to join Spacelab J, a joint U.S.-Japanese mission. When the space shuttle Endeavour blasted off on its second mission, it carried the first African American woman into space. A mission specialist, Jemison was a co-investigator of two bone cell research experiments, one of 43 scientific investigations that were done on mission STS-47. The shuttle landed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sept. 20. Over the course of her only space voyage, Jemison logged 190 hours, 30 minutes, and 23 seconds in space. But Mae Jemison is more than an astronaut — she’s also a physician, a Peace Corps volunteer, a teacher, and founder and president of two technology companies. She is truly a remarkable woman.
Born in Alabama and raised in Chicago, Jemison graduated from Stanford University with degrees in chemical engineering as well as African and African-American studies. She then earned her medical degree from Cornell University. Jemison was a doctor for the Peace Corps in Liberia and Sierra Leone from 1983 until 1985 and worked as a general practitioner. In pursuit of becoming an astronaut she applied to NASA. Jemison left NASA in 1993 and founded a technology research company.
Jemison served on the board of directors of the World Sickle Cell Foundation from 1990 to 1992. In 1993, she founded The Jemison Group Inc., a consulting firm which considers the sociocultural impact of technological advancements and design. Jemison also founded the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence and named the foundation in honor of her mother. One of the projects of the foundation is The Earth We Share, a science camp for students aged 12 to 16. Founded in 1994, camps have been held at Dartmouth College, Colorado School of Mines, Choate Rosemary Hall and other sites in the United States, as well as internationally in South Africa, Tunisia, and Switzerland.
Jemison was a professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth College from 1995 to 2002 where she directed the Jemison Institute for Advancing Technology in Developing Countries. In 1999, she also became an Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University. Jemison continues to advocate strongly in favor of science education and getting minority students interested in science. She is a member of various scientific organizations, such as the American Medical Association, the American Chemical Society, the Association of Space Explorers and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
In 1999, Jemison founded BioSentient Corp and obtained the license to commercialize AFTE, the technique she and Mohri tested on themselves during STS-47.
In 2012, Jemison made the winning bid for the DARPA 100 Year Starship project through the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence. The Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence was awarded a $500,000 grant for further work. The new organization maintained the organizational name 100 Year Starship. Jemison is the current principal of the 100 Year Starship.
In 2018, she collaborated with Bayer Crop Science and National 4-H Council for the initiative named Science Matters which was aimed at encouraging young children to understand and pursue agricultural sciences.
Jemison also wrote several books for children and appeared on television several times, including in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. She holds several honorary doctorates and has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the International Space Hall of Fame.