NASA Announces Jessica Watkins As First Black Woman Astronaut To Join Space Station Crew
Jessica Watkins will perform duties as a mission specialist on the agency's scheduled SpaceX Crew-4 mission set for April 2022.
November 17, 2021 at 5:12 pm
Jessica Watkins, a NASA astronaut and professor of geology, will make history as the first Black woman to travel to the International Space Station (ISS) in over 20 years of its operation, NASA announced on Tuesday.
Watkins will perform duties as a mission specialist on the agency's scheduled SpaceX Crew-4 mission, which is "the fourth crew rotation flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station," according to the agency's press release.
The space expedition will be the first for Watkins since being selected as an astronaut in 2017. She joins fellow crew members and NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.
NASA assigned Lindgren and Hines as spacecraft commander and pilot, and Cristoforetti will be the mission specialist, as announced in May by NASA.
The SpaceX Crew-4 mission group is set to launch in April 2022 on the SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket from Launch Complex 39A, located at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission will last for six months in a microgravity laboratory.
Watkins was born in Gaithersburg, Maryland, but grew up in Lafayette, Colorado, which she considers her hometown. She attended Stanford University and has a bachelor of science in geological and environmental sciences. She also acquired a doctorate in geology from the University of California, Los Angeles.
She started her career at NASA as an intern, working at the Ames Research Center in California and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. In 2017, she was chosen by NASA to enlist in the Astronaut Candidate Class. During this period of time, she was a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at the California Institute of Technology. While there, Watkins was a team member of the science team for the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, according to her bio on the NASA website.
She said she hopes that her space excursion will inspire children of color, especially girls of color.
"For me, that's been really important, and so if I can contribute to that in some way, that's definitely worth it," she told The New York Times.