Dr. Jessica Watkins made history this week as the first black woman on an International Space Station crew and the first to journey into space for an extended mission.
The Maryland-born astronaut launched into space Wednesday (Apr. 27th) as part of SpaceX’s Crew-4 mission with NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Commander Robert Hines, and European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. The crew will spend about 6 months aboard the space station where all sorts of scientific procedures will be conducted to gather research in physical science, earth & space science, cell tissue, plant growth, and other focuses. The crew will also conduct human research efforts such as studying the effects of space flight on our bodies.
The work to get to the stars.
Dr. Watkins was selected to NASA’s astronaut program back in 2017 and has been training tirelessly since . “We spent a lot of time preparing for this moment and we spent a lot of time doing simulations – and, for lack of a better term, kind of pretending to do the real thing,” Watkins told NBC News during an interview before take-off. “So it’s really exciting and really cool for us to be able to actually put all of that work into practice and go up there and see the real thing. It’s definitely been years of preparation that we’re looking forward to putting into application.”
She’s hoping to inspire others to embark on their dreams and put in the work to make them come true. She spoke on the power of inspiration in her life and is eager to provide the same for others. “For me, throughout my career, it’s been really important to see people who look like me or have my background or similar experiences in the roles that I aspire to,” she continued. “To the extent that I’m able to do that for others, for other young girls or other young people of color, I’m grateful for the opportunity to return the favor.”
See the interview below:
Handling the pressures of a historic moment.
Making history as the first black woman to achieve what she has, Watkins handles the pressure by celebrating both the future and past of black women in space. “I think it really is just a tribute to the legacy of the Black women astronauts that have come before me, as well as to the exciting future ahead,” she told NPR right before her mission.
Watkins was born in Gaithersburg, MD and studied at Stanford and UCLA, interning at NASA before serving at several research facilities in California. She is the 5th black woman in history to fly to space following the footsteps of NASA astronauts Mae Jemison, Stephanie Wilson, Joan Higginbotham and private astronaut Sian Proctor. Two other black women are in line to head to the stars: Yvonne Cagle and Jeanette Epps, who is scheduled to fly with Boeing’s Starliner capsule.
Dr. Watkins is a part of NASA’s Artemis program which is aimed at returning humans to the moon by 2025. We’re hopeful that she’ll be part of that history as well.