Wonder Women of STEM: Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American female astronaut.

Editor’s Note: This post is the fourth in a series featuring influential women from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields in the lead up to HMNS’ annual GEMS (Girls Exploring Math and Science) event, February 21, 2015. Click here to get involved!


We’ve seen some amazing women in STEM, but none are quite so out of this world as Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American female astronaut. In 1992, she orbited the earth for over a week on the space shuttle Endeavor and logged over 190 hours in space!

Dr. Jemison had numerous accomplishments in addition to her space travel. She began her college career at age 16 by attending Stanford University on scholarship. Within 4 years, she graduated with a BS in Chemical Engineering and a BA in African and African-American Studies from Stanford University. She continued her studies at Cornell University where she received her doctorate degree in medicine. A few years later, she proceeded to volunteer for over two years with the Peace Corps in Western Africa where she taught health education and contributed to research concerning the Hepatitis B vaccination among others.

After all of her volunteer work, Jemison applied to be part of the NASA Space Program and was one of 15 people selected out of 2000 to join the Space Program in 1987. She joined her first orbiting mission in 1992 with Endeavor. While aboard Endeavor, she worked with other astronauts on bone cell research along with other experiments and investigations. Although her time in space was short, she was able to claim the title of first female African-American in space. In May of 1993, Dr. Jemison left NASA to teach at Dartmouth College and continue to educate future generations.

In addition to her space travels, Dr. Jemison has a list of accomplishments that would knock your socks off. She can speak four languages, wrote her own book called “Find Where the Wind Goes,” was on the cover of JET Magazine, hosted the World of Wonders TV show, and was voted one of the 50 Most Beautiful People according to People Magazine. If that’s not enough, she’s also got a sense of humor. She talks about her experiences in Brazil for the 20th anniversary of the Apollo missions and she comments, “Wow!! Y’all need to be glad I didn’t go to Brazil before NASA or I’d still be there doing development work and the Samba on the beach.” Like I said, impressive!

Space was not the first major accomplishment for Dr. Mae Jemison, and it certainly won’t be her last. She continues to expand interest in science education through her foundation, The Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence. She created The Earth We Share, international science camp for students as well as a program to encourage hands-on, science education through Teachers.

If you are inspired by women such as Dr. Mae Jemison, then you’ll enjoy meeting some of the local ladies of STEM at GEMS this weekend. Come to HMNS between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. to learn more about science, technology, engineering and math! We’ll even have representatives from NASA!

NASA Fly-By at the George Observatory

At the end of November, the Space Shuttle Endeavor made its way back to Earth – and was rerouted to a base in California due to poor weather at Kennedy Space Center. To get the shuttle back to Florida and ready for its next trip to space, it was piggybacked on a modified 747 and flown cross-country on Dec. 11. When it passed over Houston, a science class taking place at the Museum’s George Observatory had a front row seat as it flew overhead. Here’s what Astronomer Barbara Wilson had to say about the experience:

A photo of the shuttle – flown on the back of a modified 747 –
passing over the George Observatory in Brazos Bend State Park.

George Observatory/HMNS staff received this communication from NASA pilot Triple Nickel.

“For those who care the Shuttle landed in Ft Worth, if the weather is good Thursday the 747 will fly from Ft Worth down to JSC for a flyby and then back to Barksdale AFB.”

Then we received another notice from Flight Director Chuck Shaw of the actual flight path and times.  We watched the flight path on the Internet and figured out when the 747 with shuttle piggybacked on top would pass over the George Observatory,  all of the students and their Moms went up with us to the main observatory deck and we heard the plane first then saw it pass directly over the George Observatory at very low altitude.

Our home school students were here today taking a class on Origins of Flight and a Challenger Mission. 20 students were thrilled to get to see the Shuttle piggybacked on the 747!

The pictures are of the Space Shuttle being transported to NASA at 11:55 am today 12/11/08 and were taken by Laurie Knight, mother of two students attending classes. Thanks Laurie.

You can see more of Laurie’s photos (plus lots of other fabulous visitor-submitted photos of the Museum and its satellites) at the Houston Museum of Natural Science pool on Flickr or on Barbara’s Flickr photostream. You can also see another amazing closeup shot of how the 747 and the shuttle were piggybacked, taken by AlphaTangoBravo when the 747 came closer to the ground, here.