Mae Jemison aboard a spacecraft floats in zero gravity.

Trailblazing Women in Science: Mae Jemison

Astronaut Mae Jemison floats in the Spacelab Japan module of Endeavor. Credit: NASA

By Riley Black

A century from now, where will humanity be? The answer might not just be about life on Earth.  Led by Dr. Mae Jemison, the 100 Year Starship® initiative is using the challenge of human travel beyond our solar system to another star to push radical leaps in knowledge, technology, and human systems to improve life here on Earth as well.

Jemison's accomplishments are beyond stellar. Trained as an engineer, physician and social scientist, Jemison was also a NASA astronaut and in 1992 became the first woman of color in space. She has degrees from Stanford and Cornell and was the Area Peace Corps doctor for Sierra Leone and Liberia prior selection to the astronaut corps. Jemison has founded STEM companies and a foundation and is an internationally noted expert in science outreach, not to mention appearing on Star Trek: The Next Generation and becoming a LEGO mini figurine.

What makes Jemison's vision so powerful is that is integrates human culture, science, technology, and hope for the future. To ensure the capabilities for the journey beyond our solar system exists in 100 years, will require experience and input from every facet of humanity. "The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin, even, or even different parts of the same continuum," Jemison has said, "but, rather, they're manifestations of the same thing. They spring from the same source. The arts and sciences are avatars of human creativity." It's that creativity that allows us to do amazing things, on our planet and perhaps beyond.

Mae Jemison was the keynote speaker in the Museum's 2021 lecture series.

Riley Black is the author of Skeleton Keys, My Beloved Brontosaurus, Prehistoric Predators, and a science writer for the Natural History Museum of Utah, a part of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Our mission is to illuminate the natural world and the place of humans within it. In addition to housing outstanding exhibits for the public, NHMU is a research museum. Learn more.


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