This Day In History: September 12

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On September 12, 1992, Dr. Mae Jemison, a Peace Corps physician who dreamt about space travel from a young age, becomes the first African American woman to go into space. Jemison, 35 at the time of the launch, is one of seven astronauts on the eight-day flight aboard the space shuttle Endeavor on mission STS-47, which made 127 orbits around earch.

“You have as much right as anyone else to be in this world and to be in any profession you want,” Jemison once said. “You don’t have to wait for permission.”

During the space flight, Jemison was the science mission specialist who conducted experiments about factors like weightlessness, bone loss and motion sickness on both herself and fellow crew members. Jemison brought several personal mementoes on the flight, including an Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority banner; an Organization of African Unity flag; and proclamations from the Chicago Public School system, where she grew up, and the DuSable Museum of African American History.

Jemison—who entered NASA’s astronaut training program in 1987, as one of 15 from a pool of about 2,000 applicants—left NASA in 1993. Since then, she has taught at Dartmouth University and started the Jemison Group, Inc., a research company for advanced technologies. Jemison also started The Earth We Share, an international space camp for kids ages 12 to 16. In 1999, Jemison founded the BioSentient Corp., which uses medical technology to improve health and human performance. She is a frequent public speaker and promoter of STEM involvement for women and minorities.

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