William Shatner may have boldly gone where no “Star Trek” captain had gone before, but he was not the first actor from the beloved science-fiction franchise to venture into space.
That honor rests solely with NASA astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, who flew as a mission specialist on the STS-47 flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavour in September 1992 before appearing as a transporter officer in the Season 6 episode “Second Chances” of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” NASASpaceFlight.com stated.
Granted, Jemison was an astronaut before being cast on the Patrick Stewart-led spinoff, as were two other NASA astronauts, Terry Verts and Mike Finke, who both appeared in the “Star Trek: Enterprise” episode “These Are The Voyages…” in 2005, the agency stated.
Jemison, who celebrates her 65th birthday Sunday, is not only an astronaut but a doctor, engineer and author as well, according to her biographies logged with both NASA and the National Women’s History Museum.
According to her biographies, Mae Jemison was born in Decatur, Alabama, raised in Chicago and “grew up watching the Apollo airings on TV, but she was often upset that there were no female astronauts.”
The Stanford University graduate earned her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, as well as African and African-American studies in 1977. She then earned her medical degree from Cornell University and practiced general medicine for several years before serving two years in the Peace Corps as a medical officer in Africa.
Inspired by Sally Ride’s historic 1983 turn as the first American woman in space, Jemison applied in 1985 and 1987 to NASA’s astronaut program and was one of only 15 people chosen out of more than 2,000 applicants on her second attempt. On Sept. 12, 1992, Jemison became the first Black female astronaut to travel to space in the agency’s history.
Jemison is an inductee of both the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the International Space Hall of Fame.
By contrast, Shatner, 90, portrayed the iconic Capt. James T. Kirk from 1966 to 1969 in the original “Star Trek” series, as well as in multiple film adaptations over the years. He blasted off Wednesday from Van Horn, Texas, aboard a Blue Origin rocket as part of the sub-orbital spaceflight services company’s all-civilian crew that also included Blue Origin’s vice president of mission and flight operations, Audrey Powers, and crewmates Chris Boshuizen and Glen de Vries.
Jemison is currently leading the 100 Year Starship project through the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, committed to ensuring that human space travel to another star is possible within the next 100 years, according to the National Women’s History Museum.
Click here to learn more about Jemison.
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