She became the first African American woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992. In 2006, Jemison participated in African American Lives, a PBS television miniseries hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., that traced the family history of eight famous African Americans using historical research and genetic techniques. Jemison found to her surprise that she is 13% East Asian in her genetic makeup.
After the flight of Sally Ride in 1983, Jemison felt the astronaut program had opened up, so she applied. Jemison’s inspiration for joining NASA was African-American actress Nichelle Nichols, who portrayed Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek. Jemison was turned down on her first application to NASA, but in 1987 she was accepted on her second application. “I got a call saying ‘Are you still interested?’ and I said ‘Yeah’,” recalls Jemison.
She has appeared on television several times, including as an actress in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. In 1993, Jemison appeared on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. LeVar Burton found out from a friend that Jemison was a big Star Trek fan and asked her if she would be interested in being on the show, and she said, “Yeah!!”
The result was an appearance as Lieutenant Palmer in the episode “Second Chances“. Jemison has the distinction of being the first real astronaut ever to appear on Star Trek.
Jemison flew her only space mission from September 12 to 20, 1992, as a Mission Specialist on STS-47. “The first thing I saw from space was Chicago, my hometown,” said Jemison. “I was working on the middeck where there aren’t many windows, and as we passed over Chicago, the commander called me up to the flight deck.
It was such a significant moment because since I was a little girl I had always assumed I would go into space,” Jemison added. Despite NASA’s rigid protocol, Jemison would begin each shift with a salute that only a Trekkie could appreciate. “Hailing frequencies open,” she could be heard repeating throughout the eight-day mission.
Hailing frequencies open! Best known as the original communications officer Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek, Nichelle Nichols has blazed trails among the stars on television and in the real Solar System too, recruiting qualified woman and minorities for NASA.
Whoopi Goldberg is an American actress, comedian, singer, writer, social critic, and television host.
Denzel Washington presenting Whoopi Goldberg with the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in “Ghost” at the 63rd Annual Academy Awards in 1991.
Publicity still of Actress/Model Iman below in the part of the shape-shifting Chameloid, Martia from Star Trek VI.
Zoe Saldana-Perego (below), Zoe Saldana, is an American actress and dancer.
She plays Nyota Uhura in the reboot “Star Trek” franchise.
Jemison says she was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.; to her King’s dream was not an elusive fantasy but a call to action. “Too often people paint him like Santa — smiley and inoffensive,” says Jemison. “But when I think of Martin Luther King, I think of attitude, audacity, and bravery.” Jemison thinks the civil rights movement was all about breaking down the barriers to human potential. “The best way to make dreams come true is to wake up.
Jemison loved science growing up but she also loved the arts. Jemison began dancing at the age of 11. “I love dancing! I took all kinds of dance — African dancing, ballet, jazz, modern — even Japanese dancing. I wanted to become a professional dancer,” said Jemison. At the age of 14 in high school she auditioned for the leading role of “Maria” in West Side Story. She did not get the part but Jemison’s dancing skills did get her into the line up as a background dancer.”I had a problem with the singing but I danced and acted pretty well enough for them to choose me.
I think that people sometimes limit themselves and so rob themselves of the opportunity to realise their dreams. For me, I love the sciences and I also love the arts,” says Jemison. “I saw the theatre as an outlet for this passion and so I decided to pursue this dream.”Later during her senior year in college, she was trying to decide whether to go to New York to medical school or become a professional dancer. Her mother told her, “You can always dance if you’re a doctor, but you can’t doctor if you’re a dancer.”
Jemison graduated from Chicago’s Morgan Park High School in 1973 and entered Stanford University at the age of 16. “I was naive and stubborn enough that it didn’t faze me,” Jemison said. “It’s not until recently that I realized that 16 was particularly young or that there were even any issues associated with my parents having enough confidence in me to [allow me to] go that far away from home.” Jemison graduated from Stanford in 1977, receiving a B.S. in chemical engineering and fulfilling the requirements for a B.A. in African and Afro-American Studies.
Jemison said that majoring in engineering as a black woman was difficult because race was always an issue in the United States. “Some professors would just pretend I wasn’t there. I would ask a question and a professor would act as if it was just so dumb, the dumbest question he had ever heard. Then, when a white guy would ask the same question, the professor would say, ‘That’s a very astute observation.'” In an interview with the Des Moines Register in 2008 Jemison said that it was difficult to go to Stanford at 16, but thinks her youthful arrogance may have helped her. “I did have to say, ‘I’m going to do this and I don’t give a crap (damn).'” She points out the unfairness of the necessity for women and minorities to have that attitude in some fields.
Jemison obtained her Doctor of Medicine degree in 1981 at Cornell Medical College. She interned at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center and later worked as a general practitioner. During medical school Jemison traveled to Cuba, Kenya and Thailand, to provide primary medical care to people living there. During her years at Cornell Medical College, Jemison took lessons in modern dance at the Alvin Ailey school. Jemison later built a dance studio in her home and has choreographed and produced several shows of modern jazz and African dance.
Her work with NASA before her shuttle launch included launch support activities at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and verification of Shuttle computer software in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL).”I did things like help to support the launch of vehicles at Kennedy Space Center,” said Jemison. “I was in the first class of astronauts selected after the Challenger accident back in 1986, … [I] actually worked the launch of the first flight after the Challenger accident.
Jemison is a Professor-at-Large at Cornell University and was a professor of Environmental Studies at Dartmouth College from 1995 to 2002. Jemison continues to advocate strongly in favor of science education and getting minority students interested in science. She sees science and technology as being very much a part of society, and African-Americans as having been deeply involved in U.S. science and technology from the beginning.
In 1993 Jemison founded her own company, the Jemison Group that researches, markets, and develops science and technology for daily life. Jemison founded the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence and named the foundation in honor of her mother. “My parents were the best scientists I knew,” Jemison said, “because they were always asking questions.” One of the projects of Jemison’s foundation is The Earth We Share (TEWS), an international science camp where students, ages 12 to 16, work to solve current global problems, like “How Many People Can the Earth Hold” and “Predict the Hot Public Stocks of The Year 2030.” The four-week residential program helps students build critical thinking and problem solving skills through an experiential curriculum. Camps have been held at Dartmouth College, Colorado School of Mines, Choate Rosemary Hall and other sites around the United States. TEWS was introduced internationally to high school students in day programs in South Africa and Tunisia. In 1999, TEWS was expanded overseas to adults at the Zermatt Creativity and Leadership Symposium held in Switzerland.
In 1999, Jemison founded BioSentient Corp and has been working to develop a portable device that allows mobile monitoring of the involuntary nervous system. BioSentient has obtained the license to commercialize NASA’s space-age technology known as Autogenic Feedback Training Exercise (AFTE), a patented technique that uses biofeedback and autogenic therapy to allow patients to monitor and control their physiology as a possible treatment for anxiety and stress-related disorders. “BioSentient is examining AFTE as a treatment for anxiety, nausea, migraine and tension headaches, chronic pain, hypertension and hypotension, and stress-related disorders,” says Jemison.
In 2012, Jemison made the winning bid for the DARPA 100 Year Starship project through the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence. The Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence was awarded a $500,000 grant for further work. The new organization maintained the organizational name 100 Year Starship. Jemison is the current principal of the 100 Year Starship.
In other news
In the spring of 1996, Jemison filed a complaint against a Texas police officer, accusing him of police brutality during a traffic stop that ended in her arrest. She was pulled over by Nassau Bay, Texas officer Henry Hughes for allegedly making an illegal U-turn and arrested after Hughes learned of a warrant on Jemison for a speeding charge. In her complaint, Jemison said the officer physically and emotionally mistreated her. Jemison’s attorney said she was forced to the ground and handcuffed. Jemison said in a televised interview that the incident has altered her feelings about police there. “I always felt safe and comfortable [around the police]. I don’t feel that way anymore at Nassau Bay and that’s a shame,” she said.