Black women have made significant contributions to space exploration, blazing trails and breaking color barriers along the way. Mae Jemison became the first Black woman to go to space in 1992 as part of the STS-47 mission on the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Jemison earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from Stanford University in 1977, and later attended Cornell University, where she earned a Doctor of Medicine degree in 1981. During her mission, Jemison conducted experiments related to bone cell research, helping to advance our understanding of how the human body adapts to spaceflight. Jemison’s pioneering journey into space broke barriers and inspired many to pursue careers in science and space exploration.
Stephanie Wilson has flown on three space shuttle missions, including STS-121 in 2006, STS-120 in 2007, and STS-131 in 2010. Wilson earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering Science from Harvard University in 1988, and a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas in 1992. During her missions, she played a key role in testing safety upgrades to the shuttle, installing the Harmony module on the International Space Station (ISS), and delivering supplies and equipment to the ISS. Her work helped advance our understanding of space exploration, engineering, and construction.
Joan Higginbotham flew on the Space Shuttle Discovery in 2006 as part of the STS-116 mission. Higginbotham earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Southern Illinois University in 1987, and later earned a Master of Management degree from Florida Institute of Technology in 1992. Higginbotham oversaw the installation of a new truss segment on the ISS and even performed a spacewalk to complete the task. Her work helped advance our understanding of space construction and engineering, and set the stage for future missions.
Yvonne Cagle served as a mission specialist on the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1996 as part of the STS 61C mission. Cagle earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from San Francisco State University in 1981, and a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Washington in 1985. Cagle’s work involved studying the effects of spaceflight on the human body, particularly the cardiovascular system. Her research has contributed to our understanding of how the human body adapts to spaceflight and has helped improve the health of astronauts on long-duration missions.
These women’s accomplishments in space exploration have expanded our knowledge of the universe and inspired future generations of scientists and space enthusiasts. By celebrating the achievements of these remarkable women and highlighting their educational backgrounds in science, engineering, and medicine, we honor their contributions to the field of space exploration and inspire new generations of women and people of color to pursue careers in STEM fields.