Astronaut Jessica Watkins is set to make history as the first Black woman to spend six months in the International Space Station during an extended mission. Watkins is set to reach space in April. Women of NASA announced her involvement in the SpaceX Crew-4 mission in November last year.
The mission will be a part of NASA’s Artemis program, which has the ultimate goal of getting humans back to the moon by 2025. As per her expertise in Geology, Jessica Watkins will work as a mission specialist to observe and record geological changes on Earth from the ISS.
Watkins spoke to NPR and said:
“We are building on the foundation that was laid by the Black women astronauts who have come before me. I’m definitely honored to be a small part of that legacy, but ultimately be an equal member of the crew.”
Everything known about astronaut Jessica Watkins
According to her biography from NASA, Maryland native Dr. Watkins grew up in Lafayette, Colorado. She was scouted by the space agency in 2017 and was put into a training program, where she trained for two years to be ready for space missions.
The 33-year-old astronaut graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in Geological and Environmental Sciences. Dr. Watkins received her PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she researched Mars’ surface and large landslides on the planet.
Following her doctorate, she was a postdoctoral candidate in Geological and Planetary Sciences at the California Institute of Technology. At Caltech, she was also the assistant coach to the women’s basketball team.
While at Caltech, Jessica Watkins collaborated with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) and was part of the science team on the Mars rover, Curiosity. She interned in multiple projects at JPL and NASA’s Ames Research Center, where she worked on the Curiosity mission and more.
In 2011, Jessica Watkins was involved with the NASA Desert Research and Technology Studies. Two years later, she was also part of the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations 23 mission in 2019, where she was involved in aquatic missions in an underwater habitat.
Throughout her career so far, Watkins received great recognition like NASA Group Achievement Award, UCLA Chancellor’s Prize in 2010, and several Rugby prizes. As per her biography:
“She enjoys rugby, basketball, soccer, skiing, coaching, movies, and writing.”
On December 7, Watkins teased her upcoming mission on Instagram with a post with the caption:
“And so the (next) adventure begins.”
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Watkins will be the fourth black female astronaut to reach space. However, she will be the first in the category to spend six months on the ISS.