Mae Jemison is known for becoming the first African American into space when she served as the science mission specialist on STS-47 Spacelab-J (September 12-20, 1992). Do you know who inspired this influential scientist to travel into space? It was none other than Nichelle Nichols, who played Commander Uhura on the Star Trek series.
In case you’re not familiar with the STS-47 mission, it was an assignment that joined the United States and Japan together. Slated for eight days, the mission involved 127 orbits of the Earth. In that span of time, 44 Japanese and U.S. life science and materials processing experiments was conducted. Jamison was assigned as a co-investigator of a bone cell research experiment. Out of Florida, Jemison’s crew on the Endeavour launched from the Kennedy Space Center. Her first space flight lasted for 190 hours, 30 minutes, 23 seconds.
In 1993, Jemison resigned from NASA and became the founder of the Jemison Group, Inc, which focused on research and development of advanced technologies. Some of the group’s projects included a satellite based telecommunication system to improve health care in West Africa (known as Alpha) and an international science camp for students (called The Earth We Share).
Words of Wisdom
You can get to know a lot about a person by the words that they leave behind. A handful of quotes attributed to Mae Jemison are below:
Upon asking her opinion on being slected as an astronaut, Jemison replied: “There have been lots of other women who had the talent and ability before me. I think this can be seen as an affirmation that we’re moving ahead. And I hope it means that I’m just the first in a long line.”
“More women should demand to be involved. It’s our right. This is one area where we can get in on the ground floor and possibly help to direct where space exploration will go in the future.”
“The thing that I have done throughout my life is to do the best job that I can and to be me.”
“People may see astronauts and because the majority are white males, they tend to think it has nothing to do with them. But it does.”
“When I’m asked about the relevance to Black people of what I do, I take that as an affront. It presupposes that Black people have never been involved in exploring the heavens, but this is not so. Ancient African empires — Mali, Songhai, Egypt — had scientists, astronomers. The fact is that space and its resources belong to all of us, not to any one group.”
“I want to make sure we use all our talent, not just 25 percent.”
“Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.”
“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations…If you adopt their attitudes, then the possibility won’t exist because you’ll have already shut it out … You can hear other people’s wisdom, but you’ve got to re-evaluate the world for yourself. ”
“It is important for scientists to be aware of what our discoveries mean, socially and politically. It’s a noble goal that science should be apolitical, acultural, and asocial, but it can’t be, because it’s done by people who are all those things.”
“Science is very important to me, but I also like to stress that you have to be well-rounded. One’s love for science doesn’t get rid of all the other areas. I truly feel someone interested in science is interested in understanding what’s going on in the world. That means you have to find out about social science, art, and politics.”
“I had to learn very early not to limit myself due to others’ limited imaginations. I have learned these days never to limit anyone else due to my limited imagination.”