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African Americans Making An Impact In Space

By: Tye Richmond

While a lot of people celebrated Cinco De Mayo there was a celebration as well at NASA. It was National Astronaut Day on May 5th and on May 6th it is National Space Day. So, in all the NASA centers around the country, there is probably a big celebration going on.

According to the nationalcalenderday.com, “National Astronaut Day on May 5th, each year celebrates Astronauts as true heroes. The day’s mission is to inspire ALL to “reach for the stars” by sharing “out of this world” Astronaut stories and experiences.”

It is also, “National Space Day dedicates the first Friday in May to the extraordinary achievements, benefits, and opportunities in the exploration and use of space. The goal of the observance is to promote math, science, technology, and engineering education in young people, The hope is to inspire them to pursue a career in science, especially a career in space-related jobs.”

In honor of, it basically being NASA appreciation week I wanted to acknowledge some African American Astronauts.

The first person I want to recognize is Robert Henry Lawrence Jr. Who was a United States Air Force officer and the first black astronaut ever. Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Lawrence attended Haines Elementary School and, at age sixteen, graduated in the top 10 percent from Englewood High School in 1952. Four years later in 1956, he graduated from Bradley University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry. At Bradley, Lawrence became a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity and distinguished himself as Cadet Commander in the Air Force ROTC, and received the commission of second lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve Program.

At age 32, Lawrence was killed in a plane crash at Edwards AFB on December 8, 1967.[1] He was flying backseat in an F-104 as the instructor pilot for flight test trainee Major Harvey Royer, who was learning the steep-descent glide technique. Royer made such an approach but flared too late.

The second person to recognize Mae Jemison is an American engineer, physician, and former NASA astronaut. She became the first black woman to travel into space when she served as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Jemison joined NASA’s astronaut corps in 1987 and was selected to serve for the STS-47 mission, during which she orbited the Earth for nearly eight days on September 12–20, 1992.

Born in Alabama and raised in Chicago, Jemison graduated from Stanford University with degrees in chemical engineering as well as African and African-American studies. She then earned her medical degree from Cornell University. Jemison was a doctor for the Peace Corps in Liberia and Sierra Leone from 1983 until 1985 and worked as a general practitioner. In pursuit of becoming an astronaut, she applied to NASA.

The last person I would like to recognize is the most recent African American Astronaut and that is Jessica Watkins.

Watkins is a NASA astronaut, geologist, aquanaut and former international rugby player. Watkins was announced as the first Black woman who will complete an International Space Station long-term mission in April 2022.

In June 2017, Watkins was selected as a member of NASA Astronaut Group 22 and began her two-year training in August. In December 2020, she was selected to be a part of the Artemis Team to return humans to the Moon. The year 2025 is the target date for the crewed lunar landing mission.

In November 2021, she became the 4th astronaut of Group 22, and the first Black woman, to be assigned a long-duration mission to the International Space Station (ISS) after being chosen as the final member of SpaceX Crew-4, which launched in April 2022. It is Watkins’ first time in space. She is serving as a mission specialist for the six-month mission. Her role involves observing and photographing geological changes on Earth, as well as other investigations into Earth and space science, biological science, and the effects of long-duration spaceflight on humans.

These are just some of the many African American Astronauts that have paved the way for more to come and change the history of not only our country but the world.

Sponsored by New Castle County Government Sponsored by New Castle County Government
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