Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Melinda. Melinda Wonders, “Who was Mae C. Jemison?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Melinda!

Have you ever dreamed of going to space? If so, you may already know all about the International Space Station and other missions. Maybe you’d like to live on another planet or in an O’Neill Colony one day.

Does that sound like you? If so, the name in the title of this Wonder of the Day might ring a bell. She’s a gifted doctor who became the first Black woman in space in 1992. That’s right! We’re talking about Dr. Mae Jemison.

Dr. Jemison was born in Decatur, Alabama, and grew up in Chicago, Illinois. Her interest in science started at an early age. Dr. Jemison even told her kindergarten teacher that she wanted to become a scientist! She also took part in theater and dance.

As a kid, Dr. Jemison watched the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s unfold. At age 12, she was frightened by the military presence in her community. National Guardsmen had arrived to stop protests over racial inequality. The experience also made her even more determined to work toward her goals. She reminded herself that she “was as much a part of this United States as the Guardsmen.”

At age 16, Dr. Jemison graduated from high school. She enrolled at Stanford University. There, she earned degrees in chemical engineering and African American studies. She also led the Black Student Union. After graduation, Dr. Jemison went to Cornell Medical School.

Dr. Jemison also learned to speak Russian, Japanese, and Swahili. After medical school, she joined the Peace Corps. Dr. Jemison spent two years as a medical officer in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Then, she came back to America and opened her own office.

How did Dr. Jemison go from being a medical doctor to an astronaut? She had always been interested in space and science. In 1983, she watched America send its first woman astronaut, Sally Ride, into space. Dr. Jemison saw her chance. She applied to become an astronaut in 1985 and again in 1987. She was chosen from a pool of 2,000 applicants and joined NASA Astronaut Group 12.

On September 12, 1992, Dr. Jemison became the first Black woman in space. She was a Mission Specialist aboard the space shuttle Endeavour. On this trip, Dr. Jemison and her crew orbited the Earth 127 times. 

Dr. Mae Jemison left NASA in 1993. Since then, she has worked in many fields. She was a professor at Dartmouth and Cornell. She also founded a nonprofit called the Jemison Group. Dr. Jemison even appeared on an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Today, she leads the 100 Year Starship project. It aims to help humans travel outside our solar system in the next 100 years. 

Would you like to follow in Dr. Mae Jemison’s footsteps? Maybe you’ll even be one of the first people to leave the solar system. With the speed at which technology is growing, anything is possible!

Standards: C3.D2.His.2, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

Wonder What's Next?

We’re combining the ABCs with the one, two, three in tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day!