On September 12, 1992, astronaut Mae Jemison became the first woman of color to travel into space when she served as the science mission specialist on the STS-47 Spacelab-J. Jemison launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard the Endeavour and returned to earth on September 20 of that year, after 127 orbits of the Earth.
Mae Jemison speaking during the New Space Exploration Initiative “Breakthrough Starshot” on April 12, 2016. Jemal Countess/Getty Images
It was a day that many STEM enthusiasts and black folks will never forget: the day Mae Jemison became the first woman of color to travel into space.
Aboard the Endeavor, Jemison served as a science mission specialist. After launching from Florida for 127 orbits around the Earth, Jemison returned to Earth on September 20 of that same year.
Twenty-five years later, Jemison wants to celebrate her accomplishments! And she deserves to!
In honor of the historic flight, the astronaut will host a party called 25 Strong on September 15 under the Endeavor space shuttle at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.
In an interview with the Observer, Jemison mused about her iconic trip around the globe.
“As it was occurring, there were a couple of things that were happening,” Jemison remembered. “There was the sense of personal accomplishment, but at the same time, there was the whole issue and whole attention around being the first African American woman astronaut, and even more so, being the first woman of color in the world to go into space.”
In addition to her vast intelligence and hard work, her determination played a huge role in Jemison’s success.
“As a little girl, growing up, I always assumed I would go into space. Let me make sure that’s clear,” she said. “I just always assumed, despite the fact that the U.S. hadn’t sent any women up and there, or people of color, that I was going to go.”
Of course, Jemison is a proponent for inclusiveness in STEM, and made it clear that the low numbers of girls and women in STEM have little to do with lack of interest or talent.
“What’s really interesting about the science fields is that women and girls love science. They do as well as — or better than — boys in science all the way through grade school and high school. They go into college wanting to go into a science field, and they fall out at high numbers … even though most professors say that women are the best prepared students to graduate with a degree in a STEM field,” she noted. “That basically tells us that something is going on in college that may be kind of interesting. A lot of it has to do with how I think women are treated by their professors and whether or not they’re looked at as a fellow colleagues.”
Jemison’s advice to girls and women looking to enter STEM?
“I’ll tell you you have the right to be there, I’ve been around the block a couple of times, and I can tell you unequivocally, yes, you have the right to be there.”