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Black History Month


In space for real and on 'Star Trek'

Mae C. Jemison fulfilled a childhood fantasy when she joined the crew of the Starship Enterprise on television's ''Star Trek: The Next Generation.''

It happened just months after she had reached her adult goal of becoming an astronaut.

Jemison became the first black woman in space when she blasted off aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor in 1992.

She spent eight days on Spacelab J as a science mission specialist.

In that role she managed 44 experiments, including studies on the effects of zero-gravity on bone cells and blood pressure in legs and its effect on the growth of frog embryos.

The medical nature of the NASA experiments allowed her to use her medical and science training and experience.

She had earned two undergraduate degrees in engineering and African and Afro-American studies from Stanford University, plus a medical degree from Cornell University.

Jemison was working as a family doctor in Los Angeles and taking graduate classes in chemical engineering when she decided to apply to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's astronaut training program.

She had already spent two and a half years as a medical officer for the Peace Corps in the West African countries of Sierra Leone and Liberia.

It was not the first time she'd practiced medicine overseas.

While in medical school, she traveled to Cuba, Kenya and Thailand to help treat the sick.

Jemison was one of 15 people, out of 2,000 applicants, accepted into the astronaut program.

It was her second try.

She left NASA in 1993 to become director of Dartmouth College's Jemison Institute for Advancing Technology in Development Countries. The outspoken scientist says she is committed to helping more women and minorities pursue science careers.

-- By Emily Bell

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