Thursday, 9 - 08 - 2012
Mae Carol Jemison (born October 17, 1956) is an American physician and NASA astronaut. She became the first black woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992. After her medical education and a brief general practice, Jemison served in the Peace Corps from 1985 to 1987. She resigned from NASA in 1993 to form a company researching the application of technology to daily life. She has appeared on television several times, including as an actor in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. She is a dancer, and holds 9 honorary doctorates in science, engineering, letters, and the humanities.
After the flight of Sally Ride in 1983, Jemison felt the astronaut program had opened up, so she applied. Jemison’s inspiration for joining NASA was African-American actress Nichelle Nichols, who portrayed Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek.
Because of her love of dance and as a salute to creativity, Jemison took a poster from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Company along with her on the flight. “Many people do not see a connection between science and dance,” says Jemison. “but I consider them both to be expressions of the boundless creativity that people have to share with one another.” Jemison also took several small art objects from West African countries to symbolize that space belongs to all nations. Also on this flight, according to Bessie Coleman biographer Doris L. Rich, Jemison also took into orbit a photo of Coleman—Coleman was the very first Afro-American woman to ever fly an airplane.
Jemison resigned from NASA in March 1993. “I left NASA because I’m very interested in how social sciences interact with technologies,” says Jemison. “People always think of technology as something having silicon in it. But a pencil is technology. Any language is technology. Technology is a tool we use to accomplish a particular task and when one talks about appropriate technology in developing countries, appropriate may mean anything from fire to solar electricity.” In an interview with the Des Moines Register on October 16, 2008 Jemison said that she was not driven to be the “first black woman to go into space.” “I wouldn’t have cared less if 2,000 people had gone up before me … I would still have had my hand up, ‘I want to do this.’”
In 1993 Jemison founded her own company, the Jemison Group that researches, markets, and develops science and technology for daily life. In 1993, Jemison also appeared on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. LeVar Burton found out, from a friend that Jemison was a big Star Trek fan and asked her if she’d be interested in being on the show, and she said, “Yeah!!” The result was an appearance as Lieutenant Palmer in the episode “Second Chances”.
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