Mae Carol Jemison is a physician, writer, dancer and actor. In 1987, she became the first African-American woman astronaut. On September 12, 1992, Jemison flew into space with six other astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour, becoming the first black woman in space.
After medical school, Jemison served in the Peace Corps in Liberia and Sierra Leone from 1985 until 1987, when she was selected by NASA to join the astronaut corps. In the Peace Corps she provided medical care, wrote self-care manuals, and developed and implemented guidelines for health and safety issues. Jemison also worked with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) helping develop various vaccines.
Once while in the Peace Corps, another volunteer became seriously ill. The volunteer’s condition progressively worsened, and Jemison was sure it was Meningitis with life-threatening complications that could not be treated in Sierra Leone. Jemison called for an U.S Air Force hospital plane based in Germany for a military medical evacuation at a cost of $80,000. The American embassy questioned whether Jemison had the authority to give such an order. She told them she did not need anyone’s permission to make a medical decision. By the time the plane reached Germany with Jemison and the volunteer, she had been up for 56 hours. The patient survived.
She resigned from NASA in 1993 to start a company researching the application of technology to daily life. She has appeared on television talk shows, and as an actor on Star Trek: The Next Generation. She is a holds nine honorary doctorates in Arts, Science, Engineering, and Humanities.
In the spring of 1996, Jemison was pulled over by a Texas police officer for allegedly making an illegal U-turn. In the process of arresting her, the officer roughed her and forced her to the ground. In a complaint, Jemison said the officer physically and emotionally mistreated her. She spent several hours in jail and was treated at an area hospital after release for deep bruises and a head injury. Jemison said in a televised interview that the incident has altered her feelings about police:
“I always felt safe and comfortable around the police. I don’t feel that way anymore and that’s a shame.”
And that is from a woman who was locked in a tin can with five men as it circled Earth for a week.
Because of her love of dance, Jemison took a poster from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater along with her on her journey is space. Jemison:
“Many people do not see a connection between science and dance,but I consider them both to be expressions of the boundless creativity that people have to share with one another.”
“I’d love to go into space again if there were a mission to Mars. I’d also love to go to a completely different planetary system out of our solar system.”