Mae Jemison (born October 17, 1956) is an American physician and NASA astronaut. She became the first black woman to travel in space. After her medical education and a brief general practice, Jemison served in the Peace Corps in Africa from 1985 to 1987. She joined NASA in 1987, and went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992. She resigned from NASA in 1993 to form a company researching the application of technology to daily life. In addition to her achievements in science she is an accomplished actor, dancer and public speaker.
Mae Carol Jemison was born in Decatur, Alabama, the youngest child of Charlie Jemison and Dorothy Green. Her father was a maintenance supervisor for a charity organization, and her mother worked most of her career as an elementary school teacher of English and math at the Beethoven School in Chicago. The family moved to Chicago, Illinois, when Jemison was three years old, to take advantage of better educational opportunities there. Jemison says that as a young girl growing up in Chicago she always assumed she would get into space. “I thought, by now, we’d be going into space like you were going to work.” She said it was easier to apply to be a shuttle astronaut, “rather than waiting around in a cornfield, waiting for ET to pick me up or something.”
Jemison wouldn’t let anyone dissuade her from pursuing a career in science. “In kindergarten, my teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I told her a scientist,” Jemison says. “She said, ‘Don’t you mean a nurse?’ Now, there’s nothing wrong with being a nurse, but that’s not what I wanted to be.”