#tbt - Celebrating a first: Mae Jemison, first African American woman in space
It was a flight of firsts – human milestones, positive international relations -- and a little bit of Noah’s Ark all in one.
Indeed, to a fascinated public, the launch of America’s Space Shuttle Endeavor (aka STS-47) from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on September 12, 1992, yielded many memorable achievements...and luminaries.
Among its precious load of human genius and animal cargo were the following “firsts”:
“The first African-American woman to fly in Space....
The first Japanese astronaut to fly aboard the Shuttle...
The first married couple to fly on the same space mission...”
And a slew of “test subjects” including fungi, fish, fruit flies, frogs, frog eggs and more. (From NASA.gov: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/shuttlemissions/archives/sts-47.html)
A First for African-Americans
As “the first black woman in space,” Mae Jemison “wanted to use her platform...to help inspire women of all races to be involved with science, helping to shape the development of the world...” *
“...Inspired by the Apollo missions and science fiction such as Star Trek, she always assumed she would go into space one day...” *
Her assumption was correct. After studying medicine and becoming a doctor, Jemison applied to be an American astronaut. Her dream became reality when NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) welcomed her into its illustrious orbit, making African-American and American history in the process. *
Onboard Space Shuttle “STS-47” Jemison pursued her love of science, conducting experiments including “producing the first non-insect babies conceived and hatched in space...” such as tadpoles (which grew and returned to Earth with the crew). *
Also serving onboard STS-47 were distinguished space pioneers : Commander Robert L. Gibson, Pilot Curtis L. Brown Jr., Missions Specialists Mark C. Lee and N.Jan Davis (married couple), Jay Apt, and Payload Specialist Mamoru Mohri of Japan. (From NASA):
During her shuttle adventure, Jemison paid homage to “one of her great inspirations” : the actress and activist Nichelle Nichols, who portrayed “Lieutenant Uhura” on the popular 1960s TV space show, “Star Trek.” Jemison began her work shifts aboard the shuttle uttering Lt. Uhura’s famous line: * “Hailing frequencies open.” *
Jemison’s love of science and the popular culture that promoted it led to her appearance in an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” The event was a ground-breaker, earning her the distinction of being “the only real-life astronaut to have also served on the Starship Enterprise...” *
After leaving NASA, Jemison established a foundation in honor of her mother, Dorothy, to “promote science and technology.” She also “set up an initiative called 100 Year Starship” which encouraged citizens “to think big, and to nurture the giant leaps in knowledge that will enable humans to travel beyond our solar system to another star within the next hundred years....” *
Lt. Uhura would be proud.
(*) With the exception of the NASA.gov website, all other information in this blog was found in the 2017 book, “Galaxy Girls—50 Amazing Stories of Women in Space” by Libby Jackson. It’s available for checkout at MidPointe Library.
Images of Astronaut Mae Jemison and “Lt. Uhura” of “Star Trek” are from Google Images.