Mae Jemison is an American physician and NASA astronaut. She became the first African-American woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992. After her medical education and a brief general practice, Jemison served in the Peace Corps from 1985 to 1987, when she was selected by NASA to join the astronaut corps. After the flight of Sally Ride in 1983, Jemison applied for the astronaut program. Jemison's inspiration for joining NASA was African-American actress Nichelle Nichols, better known as Lieutenant Uhura from the original Star Trek. "I was in the first class of astronauts selected after the Challenger accident back in 1986, ... [I] actually worked the launch of the first flight after the Challenger accident.” Jemison flew her only space mission from September 12 to 20, 1992, as a Mission Specialist on STS-47. Because of her love of dance and as a salute to creativity, Jemison took a poster from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater along with her on the flight. "Many people do not see a connection between science and dance, but I consider them both to be expressions of the boundless creativity that people have to share with one another,” Jemison once said. She also took several small art objects from West African countries to symbolize that space belongs to all nations.
In the spring of 1996, Jemison filed a complaint against a Texas police officer, accusing him of police brutality during a traffic stop that ended in her arrest. She was pulled over by Nassau Bay, Texas officer Henry Hughes for allegedly making an illegal U-turn and arrested after Hughes learned of a warrant on Jemison for a speeding charge. In her complaint, Jemison said the officer physically and emotionally mistreated her. Jemison's attorney said she was forced to the ground and handcuffed. In a televised interview, Jemison had this to say about the incident: "I always felt safe and comfortable [around the police]. I don't feel that way anymore at Nassau Bay and that's a shame."
The multi-talented Jemison is a dancer, and holds nine honorary doctorates in science, engineering, letters and the humanities.