Mae Jemison was the first African American woman in space and an astronaut on Star Trek

By: H&I Staff     Posted: February 8, 2018, 3:44PM

Image: Wikipedia

Star Trek has a reputation for having a stacked list of guest stars. While it’s pretty cool that Iggy Pop and The Rock made cameos, the coolest guest star would have to be Mae Jemison. She may not wrestle or make punk music on the side, but she was the first person to have boarded the Enterprise who actually visited the final frontier in real life.

Jemison is a physician, engineer and NASA astronaut, as well as a former guest star on Star Trek: The Next Generation. In addition to being the first astronaut to be on Star Trek, she was also the first African American woman to travel to space. She was aboard the space shuttle Endeavour in 1992. Joining the first class of astronauts selected after the Challenger disaster in 1986, she stood out as one of 15 chosen from 2,000 applicants.

She left NASA in 1993 after her trip to space and, to this day, is a public speaker and a Professor-at-Large at Cornell University. There are few people who have that exciting of a resume, let alone got a chance to guest on one of their favorite TV shows.

According to an interview in Stanford Today, Nichelle Nichols in Star Trek is who originally inspired Jemison to join NASA. In 1993, she caught up with LeVar Burton, who asked her if she wanted to be in an episode of Star Trek that he was directing. She ended up playing Lieutenant junior grade Palmer in the season six episode “Second Chances.” Nichols even stopped by the set just to meet her.

"I got to hang out with Worf. I got to meet Riker, and all these kinds of things. It was a very cool experience, because in many ways it was coming full circle,” Jemison said, according to Memory Alpha. “As a little girl, I watched Star Trek. I knew that looking at Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Uhura, someone was connecting my idea of space, and now I got to come back around and help to verify that 'yes, this happened.’”