For day 9 of our Black History Month celebration, we recognize: Joan Higginbotham!
Joan Higginbotham is an engineer, former NASA astronaut, and the third African American woman to go into space, after Mae Jemison and Stephanie Wilson.
Born in Chicago, Illinois on August 3, 1964, Higginbotham’s original career plans did not include becoming an astronaut.
“What I had envisioned for myself was to get a degree — my electrical engineering degree — and go on to work for IBM.”Joan Higginbotham
A graduate from the Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, Higginbotham received her Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Southern Illinois University in 1987. Two weeks following graduation, Higginbotham began her career as a payload electrical engineer at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
As an engineer, Higginbotham participated in 53 space shuttle launches which was an impressive feat for any engineer. In 1992, Higginbotham earned a Masters of Management from Florida Institute of Technology.
Upon receiving her master’s, Higginbotham was urged by her boss to apply to join the astronaut corps. Though she did not make it in on her first try, Higginbotham was persistent. In spite of the setback, Higginbotham went on to earn a Master’s in Space Systems from Florida Institute of Technology in 1996.
On her second try, Higginbotham was accepted into the astronaut corps, joining the astronaut class of 1996. Upon joining the corps, Higginbotham held numerous positions, working with the shuttle and International Space Station programs. After training with the STS-117 crew, Higginbotham was reassigned to the STS-116 mission, where she served as the operator for the space station’s remote manipulator system.
On December 9, 2006, Higginbotham embarked on her first space shuttle flight as a member of the STS-116 crew, making her the third African American woman in space.