|Mae C. Jemison|
Jemison in July 1992
|Born||Mae Carol Jemison
October 17, 1956
Decatur, Alabama, U.S.
Time in space
|190 h 30 min 23 s|
|Selection||1987 NASA Group|
As an astronaut, you have a very defined set of tasks to do. Those tasks may require you to work 60, 70 or 80 hours a week.
Sometimes people ask me how difficult the astronaut program was, but being in Sierra Leone, being responsible for the health of more than 200 people, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, at age 26 – that prepared me to take on a lot of different challenges.
Some people say they feel very small when they think about space. I felt more expansive, very connected to the universe.
The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin even, or even different parts of the same continuum, but rather, they are manifestations of the same thing. The arts and sciences are avatars of human creativity.
I wanted to be a professional dancer for a period of time, and I did a lot of dancing and choreography and got paid for it.
I stayed in the astronaut program until 1993. People ask me why I left. I thought I had a lot of things to contribute that would be difficult to do if I stayed. I thought I could have a stronger voice as an advocate for space exploration. So I ended up starting my own technology consulting company.
I think science fiction helps us think about possibilities, to speculate – it helps us look at our society from a different perspective. It lets us look at our mores, using science as the backdrop, as the game changer.
Science provides an understanding of a universal experience. Arts provide a universal understanding of a personal experience.
We look at science as something very elite, which only a few people can learn. That's just not true. You just have to start early and give kids a foundation. Kids live up, or down, to expectations.
What we find is that if you have a goal that is very, very far out, and you approach it in little steps, you start to get there faster. Your mind opens up to the possibilities.
I went to school at night in L.A. to brush up on my engineering while I applied to the astronaut program. I really did not know if I would get in. It was the year after the Challenger accident in 1987.