African American History Month Spotlight: Dr. Mae Jemison

African American History Month Spotlight: Dr. Mae Jemison

(KFVS) - February is Black History Month, and in the spotlight for Feb. 11 is Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to become an astronaut and go into space.

Jemison was born in 1956 in Decatur, Alabama. Her mother was an elementary school teacher. Her father was a roofer. They moved the family to Chicago when Jemison was 3 years old, to take advantage of better educational opportunities for their children.

Jemison attended Stanford University on a National Achievement Scholarship, receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering in 1977.

She went on to become a doctor in 1981 with her M.D. from Cornell University Medical College.

After medical school, Jemison joined the Peace Corps, and from 1983-1985 she was responsible for the health of other Peace Corps volunteers serving in Liberia and Sierra Leone. She also worked with the Center for Disease Control helping research several vaccines.

Jemison says she was inspired to become an astronaut after the 1983 flight of Sally Ride on the Space Shuttle Challenger.

NASA turned down Jemison's first application, but accepted her second application to the astronaut training program in 1987.

Jemison flew her only space mission in September of 1992, as a Mission Specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor, becoming the first African-American woman in space. During the eight-day mission she conducted experiments on weightlessness and motion sickness on the crew and herself. In all, she spent more than 190 hours in space.

She resigned from NASA in 1993, and became a professor of Environmental Studies at Dartmouth College from 1995-2002.

She also established the Jemison Group, a company that researches, develops and markets advanced technologies, and founded BioSentient Corp, a company working to develop a portable device to monitor people's nervous systems with the goal of helping with anxiety and stress-related disorders.