Ink and watercolor on 9″ x 12″ watercolor paper
Mae Jemison’s story is a story of quality rising to the top. Growing up in Chicago, her parents instilled in her a thirst for knowledge. After graduating high school at age 16 she attended Stanford University, graduating with a BS in chemical engineering and fulfilling the requirements for a BA in African and Afro-American Studies. She found she had to work harder in school due to being a black woman, as the teachers treated her differently. She then attended Cornell Medical College where she obtained her Doctor of Medicine degree in 1981.
After school she joined the Peace Corps from 1983 to 1985, serving in Liberia and Sierra Leone. She supervised the pharmacy, laboratory and medical staff in addition to providing medical care, writing self-care manuals and developing and implementing guidelines for health and safety issues. During this time she also began applying to join the astronaut program, inspired by both Sally Ride and Nichelle Nichols’ character Lietenant Uhura on Star Trek. She was one of fifteen candidates chosen out of two thousand applicants.
Jemison flew her only space mission from September 12 to 20, 1992, and the first thing she saw from space was Chicago, looking down from where she had once looked up. She is the first African-American woman to travel in space. She began each of her shifts by saying, “Hailing frequencies open” as a nod to Star Trek an Uhura. A year later she appeared on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, having the distinction of being the first real-world astronaut ever to appear on Star Trek.
After resigning from NASA in 1993 to pursue how social sciences interact with technologies. She has spent her life since as a strong advocate for science education and getting minority students interested in science. She has founded companies towards this goal and has and does sit on the boards of many organizations dedicated to science, and in 2012 made the winning bid for the DARPA 100 Year Starship project with the goal to create a business plan that can last 100 years in order to help foster the research needed for interstellar travel.