Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Don Howard Salute to Black History Month - Mae Jemison

Mae Carol Jemison

Mae Carol Jemison (born October 17, 1956) is an American physician and NASA astronaut. She became the first African American woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992.

After the flight of Sally Ride in 1983, Jemison felt the astronaut program had opened up and applied. Jemison's inspiration for joining NASA was African-American actress Nichelle Nichols, who portrayed Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek. Jemsion was turned down on her first application to NASA, but in 1987 Jemison was accepted on her second application.

Her work with NASA before her shuttle launch included launch support activities at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and verification of Shuttle computer software in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL). Jemison flew her only space mission from September 12 to 20, 1992 as a Mission Specialist on STS-47. STS-47 was a cooperative mission between the United States and Japan that included 44 Japanese and United States life science and materials processing experiments. Jemison logged 190 hours, 30 minutes, 23 seconds in space.

Jemison resigned from NASA in March 1993. Although Jemison's departure from NASA was amicable, NASA was not thrilled to see her leave. "NASA had spent a lot of money training her; she also filled a niche, obviously, being a woman of color," says Homer Hickam, a training manager for NASA’s space station efforts. 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 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". Jemison has the distinction of being the first real astronaut ever to appear on Star Trek.

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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