NASA astronaut Dr. Jessica Watkins is about to make history as the First Black woman to complete an extended stay on the International Space Station (ISS).
Next year, Watkins will live and conduct research in the microgravity laboratory as it orbits the Earth. Watkins was initially was selected as an astronaut in 2017. The SpaceX Crew-4 mission is expected to launch in April 2022 and will spend six months in the giant lab.
Speaking to The New York Times, Watkins said that she hopes her excursion will inspire children of color— “especially young girls of color, to see an example of ways they can participate and succeed. That’s been really important to me, so if I can contribute in some way to that, it’s definitely worth it,” she said in an interview with the news channel.
Watkins was born in Gaithersburg, Maryland but spent the majority of her childhood in Lafayette, Colorado. She was accepted into Ivy League college, Stanford, where she received a bachelor’s degree in geological and environmental sciences. She went on to earn a doctorate in geology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Watkins also played rugby as a freshman and continued to play for the next four years.
Watkins is not the only Black woman astronaut to make history this year.
This summer, Dr. Sian Proctor became the first-ever Black female spacecraft pilot. Proctor launched to orbit with the Inspiration4 mission — the first-ever all civilian mission.
“I’m really grateful to be here and to have this opportunity,” Proctor said per Space.com. “There have been three Black female astronauts that have made it to space, and knowing that I’m going to be the fourth means that I have this opportunity to not only accomplish my dream, but also inspire the next generation of women of color and girls of color and really get them to think about reaching for the stars and what that means.”