The recent death of Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut, has brought to light her contributions to the space program and science. Dr. Ride has influenced many females to get into the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Today there is an increased push for the American education system to improve their STEM programs as well as to get students to show interest in the fields. It is important to bring attention to some of the African American females that have and are still paving the road for future scientists, astronauts and any other STEM degree holders.
Here are a few of the women who are stellar examples of black women making invaluable contributions to science.
Nichelle Nichols is not an astronaut, but her role in Star Trek as Lieutenant Uhura inspired many black women to become astronauts and astrophysicists, including Mae Jemison. One of the first African American female roles that was not a servant, Nichols used her position of popularity to work with NASA to recruit minorities and female personnel for the space agency. Those recruited include Dr. Sally Ride, the first female American astronaut Colonel Guion Bluford, the first African American in space and many more. A genuine interest in space and the advancement of space, Nichols flew aboard NASA’s C-141 Astronomy Observatory, which analyzed the atmospheres of Mars and Saturn on an eight-hour high-altitude mission.
Jeanette J. Epps PhD from Syracuse NY is a NASA astronaut. She received her PhD in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland in 2000. In 2009, Dr. Epps was selected to be one of the 14 members of the 20th NASA astronaut class. She recently graduated from Astronaut Candidate Training.
Joan Higginbotham received a Master’s in Space Systems from Florida Institute of Technology and became the third African American woman to go into space, participating in 53 space launches to date. Originally from Chicago, IL, Higginbotham initially dreamed of becoming an electrical engineer and working for IBM. She began working at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and at the urging of one of her bosses, applied to join the astronaut corps in 1994; she was not accepted. Higginbotham went on to continue her Master’s and applied a second time to the program. This time she was accepted and the rest is “her”story.
Beth Brown PhD was an Astrophysicist in the Sciences and Exploration Directorate at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Born in Roanoke, VA, she grew up watching Star Trek and Star Wars and was fascinated with space. In 1998, she became the first black woman to earn a Doctorate in Astronomy from the University of Michigan.
Mae Jemison, PhD was originally from Decatur, AL until her parents moved to Chicago, IL. She became an astronaut in 1987 and was the first African American woman to go to space in 1992. She retired from NASA in 1993 and received an award at 55 by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, totaling $500,000 in contracts to study what is needed for long-term projects such as interstellar space missions. Jemison says she was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr, but to her his dream wasn’t an elusive fantasy, but was a call to action. “The best way to make dreams come true, is to wake up”, said Jemison.
Click here to read the full article at TheGrio.