MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - Dr. Mae Jemison became the first African-American woman in space on September 22, 1992. Right beside her, making sure she was prepared for the journey, was Sharon McDougle.
"I felt like it needed to be me to take care of her not anybody else. I wanted to make sure she had the best possible, which was me," said McDougle.
McDougle, a Moss Point native, was the suit technician for Jemison's historic mission STS-47 aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the mission.
McDougle's responsibilities included making sure space suits were sturdy, practical, and well-equipped.
"I worked on everything from making sure her diaper was secured all the way to her pencils, her pins, her boots, her helmet, her communications cap," she recalled. "Anything she had to wear for the mission, I was there to assist her."
McDougle's journey to NASA was unconventional. She graduated Moss Point high school in 1982, then joined the United States Air Force.
"I didn't get a college degree, I didn't get a Ph.D., I went to the local schools," she explained.
Regardless, McDougle says worked hard and landed a job at NASA. When the opportunity to be a part of history popped up, she took it and ran with it.
"I had already gotten wind that there was gonna be the first African-American astronaut, and as soon as they wrote her name up there, I wrote my name."
The bold move led not only to a great opportunity, but also a sisterly friendship that is true to this day.
McDougle went on to become the first African-American and first woman crew chief in her department, and lead the first all-female suit tech crew.