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Joan Higginbotham is just the third Black woman to go into space, and to date is the last to do so since 2006. The Chicago native and Delta woman was born August 3, 1964.

After graduating high school, Higginbotham attended Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, earning her bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering in 1987. Higginbotham then resumed studies at the Florida Institute of Technology, earning masters in management in 1992, and space systems in 1996. Since leaving undergrad, Higginbotham worked as an engineer for the Kennedy Space Center, giving her invaluable insight on the inner workings of NASA’s space program.

In 1996, NASA selected Higginbotham for its astronaut training program and it took around 10 years for the flight to take place. Higginbotham was part of the STS-116 mission to the International Space Station, which launched on the evening of December 6, 2006 upon the Discovery. Higginbotham and the crew spent 12 days and 20 hours in space with her main task being the Space Station Remote Manipulator System operator.

Higginbotham left NASA in November 2007 to pursue other career opportunities, although she was selected for a 2008 space mission.

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