Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator
"Dare to make a difference," was the challenge from the pioneering Dr Mae Jemison, the first African-American female astronaut, who served six years as part of the United States (US) National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) programme.
"Sometimes you have to be bold in your ideas, sometimes it is about looking at the world differently and being bold enough to take that leap."
Lecturing yesterday to a group of students, practising scientists and science educators at the US Embassy in St Andrew, she captivated her audience as she defiantly charged, "figure out who you intend to be and be that. Do what makes you happy and comfortable … and be bold about it."
Jemison was in Jamaica on invitation from the US Embassy which has commenced its Black History Month celebrations, to deliver her motivational lecture on science and space exploration.
The beautiful, confident, widely accomplished 56-year-old scientist, medical doctor and engineer made history on September 12, 1992, when she went into orbit aboard the space shuttle Endeavour. Since then, she has been making her mark in the world of science through the company she founded in 1993, the Jemison Group, which researches, markets and develops science and technology for daily life. In 1999, she founded BioSentient Corp and has been working to develop a portable device that allows mobile monitoring of the involuntary nervous system.
She has also been spearheading a number of global groundbreaking initiatives, including The Earth We Share and 100 Year Starship.
In an exclusive interview with The Gleaner, Jemison said she was excited to be back in Jamaica, however brief, to talk about science literacy, the importance of education and the idea of how what is being developed tomorrow depends on the technology in place today.
Reflecting on the past 10 years since her 2003 official visit to the island, she said in terms of scientific and technological development, "I know that there are incredible Jamaican scientists, engineers, medical doctors and other talented persons, but many of them are in other countries. What we have to figure out is making sure they have a place to come back to - and this is a problem in developing countries around the world - to be a part of, to make their contributions to their country."
She said it was also critical that nations around the world see the importance of investing in education, research, science and technology development for the development of the wider society.
Look out for Part II of our interview with astronaut Dr Mae Jemison tomorrow.