The First African American Woman in Space

In 1992, who was the first African American woman to travel into space?

And the answer: Mae Jemison.

Photo courtesy: NASA, Public Domain

Born in 1956, Mae Jemison is the first African American woman to become an astronaut and travel in space. As a doctor, engineer, and NASA astronaut, she's written several books, and she's even made guest appearances on television programs such as Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Jemison's trip to space is as impressive as it is characteristic of Jemison's intensely motivated, successful career. Jemison was raised in Chicago, Illinois by two supportive parents: Charlie Jemison, a roofer and carpenter, and Dorothy (Green) Jemison, an elementary school teacher. From a very young age, Mae excelled in school and extracurricular activities. She graduated from high school in 1973 with a National Achievement Scholarship to Stanford University.

At Stanford, Jemison was one of the few African American students in her class. She became active in the Black Student Union, and choreographed a performing arts production called Out of the Shadows about her experience as a Black woman at the institution. She continued to excel in and outside of the school environment, and graduated in 1977 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering and a Bachelor of Arts degree in African and African-American studies.

In 1987, Jemison applied for admission to NASA's astronaut training program. She was one of 15 chosen for the program, out of around 2,000 applicants. On September 12, 1992 Jemison and six other astronauts lifted off on the space shuttle Endeavor. This voyage made Jemison the first African American woman in space. The team made 127 orbits around the Earth and returned to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on September 20, 1992.

Jemison is remembered as a beacon of inspiration for African American women, proving that anyone can excel if given the chance and support to do so.

Read her full bio here.


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