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NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins to be first Black woman on International Space Station crew

Jessica Watkins, a Stanford and UCLA alum, will be part of the launch into space in April 2022 on the SpaceX Crew-4 mission.

NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins to be first Black woman on International Space Station crew
Image Source: NASA / Facebook

Jessica Watkins was selected as an astronaut candidate in the year 2017. Ever since, she has been preparing for her first space mission. She will finally be able to savor the fruits of her labor as she is expected to launch into space in April 2022 on the SpaceX Crew-4 mission, as per a statement released by NASA. Watkins will thus become the first Black woman on the International Space Station crew. Her achievement is a major milestone for the organization, which has long been criticized for its lack of diversity and inclusion, CNN reports.



 

Watkins will be joined by three other crew members on the mission. Fellow NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Robert Hines, as well as the European Space Agency's Samantha Cristoforetti, will embark on the mission with her. According to the space agency, this is the fourth crew rotation flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station. The crew is scheduled to begin their journey into space from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Watkins and her fellow astronauts will spend a total of six months in the International Space Station microgravity laboratory conducting scientific research.



 

The astronaut attended Stanford University in California and earned her bachelor's degree in geological and environmental sciences before going on to earn a doctorate in geology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Watkins has a long history with the space agency, first launching her career at NASA as an intern. She has also held multiple positions at NASA. Previously, she worked at the Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, and at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. In addition to this, Watkins was a member of the science team for the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, while working as a postdoctoral fellow at the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.



 

In a video for NASA, she explains, "Geology provided a means for me to study the surface of another planet and particularly look at Mars, which was my passion." Several of her colleagues took to social media in order to applaud Watkins for her accomplishment, congratulating her on her new role and the upcoming trip to space. "More Turtles in space!" NASA astronaut Jonny Kim posted on Twitter. "Congrats to my friend and teammate, Jessica Watkins. She's going to be an amazing crewmate for SpaceX Crew-4." Kathy Lueders, the lead of NASA's human spaceflight program as associate administrator for the Space Operations Mission Directorate, added, "Congrats to Jessica Watkins! She's been chosen to join Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines and Samantha Cristoforetti on the upcoming SpaceX Crew-4 mission, the fourth crew rotation flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the Space Station."



 

A number of people of color have been responsible for NASA's illustrious legacy, although few have gained recognition for their contributions. For instance, Dr. Bernard Harris Jr. spent decades recruiting minority and female astronauts and later became the first Black person to walk in space in 1995. Similarly, Dr. Mae Jemison was the first Black woman in space while aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor in 1992. As recently as 2013, Victor Glover Jr., a legislative fellow in the US Senate, was selected as an astronaut and became the first Black person to hold a long-duration crew assignment on the ISS. He was a crew member from November 15, 2020, to May 2, 2021. These trailblazers have paved the way for Watkins to achieve her dreams.



 

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