Meet Mae Jemison, The First Black Woman Astronaut

Meet Mae Jemison, the first Black woman astronaut and super scientist.

In 1961, five-year-old Mae Jemison attended her first day in school and was asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Mae replied: “A scientist.” Her teacher looked surprised because not many Black women become scientists. Mae knew early what she wanted to do with her life and it was her only choice.

Mae read books about the universe and enjoyed science fiction books. Books weren’t the only way Mae learned. She was active in student government, acted in plays, and studied dance. “In dance class, I grew stronger and gained an appreciation for hard work, physical strength, and grace,” she says.

In college, Mae studied the physical and social sciences, and learned to speak Russian and the African language Swahili. She even earned a degree in chemical engineering and African studies. After college, she studied medicine for four years, and became a medical doctor.

In 1987, Mae was accepted into NASA’s astronaut program. She trained in Texas, learning about space exploration. She worked for NASA, and waited for a shuttle assignment.

When the space shuttle Endeavour launched into orbit in 1992, Mae became the first African-American woman to orbit the earth. How amazing is that? Mae looked down from the shuttle and saw Chicago. She remembered visiting the library, making science fair projects, and dancing. “I felt like I belonged right there in space,” she remembers. “I realized I would feel comfortable anywhere in the universe — because I belonged to and was a part of it, as much as any star, planet, asteroid, comet, or nebula.”

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