The second Endeavor shuttle mission (STS-47) was the 50th space shuttle mission, as well as a co-operative mission between the United States and Japan, was launched on September 12, 1992. Mae Jemison, a mission specialist on STS-47, was the first African-American woman in space. Jemison was the third person of African descent in space, after the Cuban astronautArnaldo Tamayo Méndez, a crew member on Soyuz 38 in 1980, andGuion Stewart Bluford Jr., a crew member on the Challenger STS-8 mission in 1983.

However, setting skin color aside, let´s focus on Mae Jemison herself as a fascinating, intelligent, beautiful, visceral and strong woman. A true role model to all.
Mae Jemison was born on October 17, 1956, in Decatur, Alabama, the third child of Charlie and Dorothy Jemison. Her father was a maintenance supervisor and her mothertaught English and maths ata Chicago elementary school.
As a young girl, Jemison enjoyed studying nature and human physiology, using her observations to learn more about science. Both her parents supported her interest in science but her teachers were sometimes less supportive. Noticing a lack of female astronauts on the Apollo mission was a source of frustration to Jemison.


Lt. Uhura from “Star Trek”
In 1966, Star Trek began its long run on American televison. The kiss of William Shatner, as Captain Kirk, and Nichelle Nichols who played Lieutenant Uhura in 1968. was one of the first inter-racial kisses on TV. The character of Lieutenant Uhura, a black woman who was neither a maid nor an exotic slave, was an inspiration to many, including Jemison. Years after the series ended, it was pointed out that she had inspired many black girls to embark on careers in science and technology. Actress Whoopi Goldberg was inspired by Nichols to take on a role in Star Trek: Next Generation, citing Nichols, as Uhura, being a role model. During her space mission, Jemison began all communications with a quote from Uhura;”Hailing frequencies open“.
Jemison didn’t just love science. She also studied ballet, modern dance and jazz. If she hadn’t become a scientist, she probably would have pursued a career as a professional dancer.
Jemison graduated from Morgan Park High School in Chicago in 1973 and entered Stanford University at the age of 16. Despite her young age, Jemison was later quoted as saying she was “naive and stubborn enough” to enter college. There were very few other African-American students in Jemison´s classes and she continued to experience discrimination from her teachers. She was quoted in a 2008 media interview saying that her youthful arrogance may have helped her and she asserted some of that arrogance as being necessary for women and minorities to be successful in a white male dominated society.Jemison graduated in 1977, receiving a B.S in chemical engineering and a B.A. degree in African and African-American studies. Whilst attending Stanford, she also did choreography, music and dance productions.
Jemison attended Cornell Medical School, travelling to Cuba to conduct a study and to Thailand, working in a Cambodian refugee camp.She also worked for Flying Doctors stationed in East Africa. During her years at Cornell, Jemison continued to study dance by enrolling at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. After graduating with an M.D. degree in 1981 she interned at Los Angeles-USC Medical Center as well as working as a general practitioner. In 1983, she joined the Peace Corps and served as a medical staff officer until 1985. In that capacity, Jemison was responsible for the health of Pece Corps workers serving in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Jemison also worked with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) helping with research for various vaccines.
When she returned to the US from her stint in the Peace Corps, she settled in Los Angeles and entered into private practice and took graduate level engineering courses.The flights of Sally Ride and Guion Bluford in 1983 inspired Jemison to apply to the astronaut program. She first applied in 1985 but NASA postponed further selection of new candidates after the Challenger disaster in 1986. Jemison reapplied in 1987 and was chosen to be one of the fifteen people in NASA Astronaut Group 12. Roughly 2000 applicants had applied.
On September 12, 1992, Mae Jemison becomes the first African-American woman in space when the Endeavor space shuttle began its mission. She and six other astronauts made 127 orbits around the Earth. Jemison was a mission specialist but also a co-researcher on two bone cell research experiments, which were just some of the 43 scientific studies done on the STS-47 mission. The shuttle returned to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on September 20. During her only space flight, Jemison recorded 190 hours, 30 minutes and 23 seconds of stay. Jemsion brought with her a figure from West Africa, a photo of aviator Bessie Coleman, the first African-American to have an international pilot’s license, and a poster byAlvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Jemison left NASA in 1993. She went on to teach at Dartmouth College. She founded the Jemison Group, which seeks to foster a love of science for students and bring advanced technology to schools around the world. She is a strong advocate for science, a science communicator and encourages women’s participation in the STEM field and hasestablished an international science camp for high school students.
Jemison wrote the book Find Where the Wind Goes, her memoirs for children, and even starred in one episode of Star Trek: Next Generation, becoming the first real-life astronaut in Star Trek. In 2017, LEGO dedicated her figurine, along with the figures of Sally Ride, Margaret Hamilton and Nancy Roman.
Mae Jemison holds 10 honorary doctorates.
Translated by Jonas Helgason
This text was produced with the support of the United States Embassy in BiH as part of the “U.S. Scientists Who Changed the World” project and we thank the US Embassy.