First female African-American astronaut speaks with A&M and high school students

Photo of Mae JemisonGrowing up, Dr. Mae C. Jemison always assumed she would go into space. The way she saw it, by the time she was old enough, she would just be able to get on a plane and travel to another planet.

It may not have happened as she planned, but Jemison did end up going into space. Now she is part of 100 Year Starship, a project to make sure we have the capability to send humans to another star system within the next 100 years.

“There is no technological reason we are not there,” Jemison said while visiting Texas A&M’s Dwight Look College of Engineering. “I think it is because we lost interest and we did not maintain our commitment.”

Jemison, the first female African-American astronaut, spoke to a group of 24 students from Carver Academy and Morton Ranch High School who were on the A&M campus as part of the E12 program as well as members from A&M’s engineering student organizations.

Jemison was at Texas A&M as part of the university’s fall semester “Reflecting, Engaging and Envisioning: Celebrating 50 Years of Inclusion” program. She was the keynote speaker at the launch event for the program.

The 100 Year Starship program is holding a symposium, “Pathway to the Stars, Footprints on Earth,” in Houston Sept. 19-22.

The symposium seeks to highlight both the small incremental steps and radical leaps required to make significant progress on the way to interstellar space and Jemison encouraged the students to attend.

“We need young folks like you to be involved,” Jemison said.

In addition to being a former astronaut and founder of two technology companies, Jemison is a physician and scientist. She served as a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut for six years. She went into orbit aboard the space shuttle Endeavour, Sept. 12, 1992 — the first woman of color to go into space.

Prior to joining NASA in 1987, Jemison worked in both engineering and medicine. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Stanford University and her doctorate in medicine from Cornell University Medical College.