Mae Jemison is not a hidden figure.
It’s hard to hide when you’re the first black woman to travel into space. Her life achievements can be found in history books, online and school posters across the country.
Now, at age 60, nearly 25 years after her journey to space, Jemison is still a household name. More than 900 people gathered Thursday at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville to hear the retired astronaut talk about her passion project, 100 Year Starship. Jemison is leading an initiative that will help scientists find a way to travel beyond our solar system within the next 100 years.
But interstellar travel isn’t the only thing Jemison passionate about.
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The Stanford University grad is also a doctor, dancer and Star Trek fan. If you missed her appearance at SIUE, check out this list of lighthearted and little-known-facts about Jemison. At press conference before her address, Jemison talked about the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures, 100 Year Starship and selfies.
Did she like the movie “Hidden Figures”? The short answer is yes. Jemison was happy to see more people learn about the contributions that African-American women made to space program. But she hopes the buzz about science and diversity doesn’t stop there.
“Let’s use this as mechanism for us to start to be comfortable,” Jemison said. “Lots of people do things ... Throughout U.S. history African-Americans, women have contributed throughout history despite things, so I think that is a wonderful mechanism.”
She’s still passionate about dance. During her speech Thursday night, Jemison spoke about the Alvin Ailey Dance Company poster that she took with her to space. From the dance company’s production “Cry,” the image tells the story about grace, dignity and the obstacles black women have overcome.
Her latest project could take us far beyond the moon and Mars. You can see the excitement in her eyes when she talks about the 100 Year Starship project. She made it to space 25 years. Now she wants “earthlings” to travel to beyond our solar system in the next 100 years. She’s dedicated her life to this project since 2012.
Jemison is literally reaching for the stars, but she’s down to earth, too. She’s always willing to take photos with her fans, but be sure to have a friend nearby to take the photo for you. “I don’t like selfies,” she said with a chuckle Thursday after her press conference at SIUE.
Her appearance wrapped up this year’s Arts & Issues series at SIUE. The program brings accomplished speakers and performers from around the world to the Edwardsville university.