Mae Jemison was born in Alabama in 1956 and raised in Chicago. She was obsessed with space and had always known that one day she would go there. But she had noticed that amongst all astronauts there was no one who looked like her. But thanks to the Star Trek TV series, which showed different people working together, she was able to see herself as an astronaut.
She began studying at Stanford University at the age of 16 because she had won a scholarship, majoring in chemical engineering and African American studies. She subsequently graduated from medical school and worked with the civil peace corps in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
When she returned, she applied to NASA to become an astronaut. In 1992 she was the first African American woman to go into space. On the Space Shuttle Endeavor, she carried a pennant from her college fraternity, the Alpha Kappa Alpha. She also brought a Bundu statue of West Africa and a poster of the dancer Judith Jamison (in fact, Mae Jemison studied dance before pursuing a university career).
The following year she left NASA and started several companies, including Jemison Group Inc. which is a technology consulting agency and BioSentient Corporation, aiming to produce machinery that allows doctors to control the functions of the nervous system of patients daily.
In addition, Jemison is the director of the 100 Years Starship Project, which focuses on ensuring that humans can reach the solar system within the next 100 years, but also to devise new solutions in the field of innovative materials, waste recycling, energy and fuel.
Quote: “You have the right to be involved. You have something important to contribute, and you have to take the risk to contribute it.”
Credits for the images: NASA, The U.S. National Archives