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Mae Jemison: NASA’s Second African-American Female Astronaut

Womens’ History Month
Mae Jemison: NASA’s Second African-American Female Astronaut

by PRIDE Newsdesk

Stephanie Wilson aboard the space shuttle Discovery.

African-American astronauts in the United States Space Program include 14 African-Americans to actually fly into space. Mae Jemison was the first African-American woman to fly in space, and served as a mission specialist on STS-47 (space transport system mission number 47), on the shuttle Endeavour.in 1987. The next African-American woman to fly in space was Stephanie D. Wilson, who also became the last African American woman to fly aboard a space shuttle.

Born September 27, 1966 in Boston, Massachusetts, Stephanie enjoys snow skiing, music, stamp collecting, and traveling. She graduated from Taconic High School, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in 1984; received her bachelor of science degree in engineering science from Harvard University in 1988; and her master of science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas in 1992.

Growing up, she says, “I had a lot of interests… I ran track and I played soccer. I also played clarinet, so I was in the marching band, an orchestra, a jazz band and a woodwind quintet. I had a lot of interests, and for school studies, I was interested in math and science and English, in reading and writing.”

Stephanie D. Wilson is a veteran of three spaceflights, STS-120, STS-121, and STS-131, and has logged more than 42 days in space, with all three missions aboard Discovery. She flew as a mission specialist on STS-121 from July 4 – 17, 2006 for 306 hours, 37 minutes and 54 seconds. Wilson served as the robotic arm operator for vehicle inspection and for the installation of the “Leonardo” Multi-Purpose Logistics Module. She was also assigned as the loadmaster responsible for overseeing the transfer of more than 15,000 pounds of supplies and equipment to the space station.

STS-120, October 23 – November 7, 2007 for 238 orbits, traveled 6.2 million miles in 15 days, 2 hours, and 23 minutes. During ascent and entry, Wilson served as the Flight Engineer, assisting the commander and pilot with space shuttle systems. She was also assigned as the primary robotic arm operator for vehicle inspection and spacewalk support, helping to replace the S-band antenna and to relocate the P6 solar array from the Z1 truss to the end of the Integrated Truss Segment. During the deployment of the solar array, the array panels snagged and were damaged. Wilson was the primary robotic arm operator for the unplanned spacewalk that successfully repaired the solar array.

Her final flight, the STS-131 mission, was 15 days, 2 hours, 47 minutes and 10 seconds and traveled 6,232,235 statute miles in 238 orbits. Wilson was responsible for robotics for spacewalking support using the space station robotic arm and for robotic removal of the “Leonardo” Multi-Purpose Logistics Module from the payload bay of Discovery. For the return to Earth, Wilson robotically installed Leonardo, which was packed with more than 6,000 pounds of hardware, science results and used supplies, inside Discovery’s payload bay.

Wilson currently serves as the NASA Astronaut Office Mission Support Crew Branch Chief.

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