On this Day: Mae Jemison Became the African-American Woman in Space
Mae Jemison always assumed she would go into space. “I wanted to explore because it was so mysterious. Where do we come from? I think that’s a big part of it,” she told MAKERS. But as she watched shuttle launches and moon landings, she was disappointed to see a lack of female astronauts. She wondered, “Why?” People tried to explain, but their reasoning never made sense to Mae.
After attending Stanford (at age 16!) and Cornell then working in Liberia and Sierra Leone as a Peace Corps medical officer, Mae wanted to find a new, more challenging atmosphere. So she applied to be an astronaut. She was aboard space shuttle Endeavour on NASA’s 50th mission. When the shuttle launched on September 12, “I remember having this huge grin on my face,” Mae remembers.
“The fact that I was the first woman of color in the world to go into space meant that I had a responsibility to use my perspective, my background, to bring a different set of possibilities to the equation.” Mae now runs 100 Year Starship, an organization that aims to make interstellar travel a reality within the next 100 years.