Jessica Watkins will be the first black woman to join the space station crew

Two decades after the The International Space Station has become the long-standing home of orbiting humanity NASA astronaut Jessica Watk...


Two decades after the The International Space Station has become the long-standing home of orbiting humanityNASA astronaut Jessica Watkins is set to become the first black woman to join her crew on a long-term mission.

NASA announced Tuesday that Dr. Watkins, a geologist raised in Lafayette, Colo., Will serve as a mission specialist on SpaceX’s upcoming astronaut flight, known as Crew-4, to the space station. She will join two other NASA astronauts and an Italian astronaut for a six-month mission aboard the orbital laboratory which is scheduled to begin in April.

In an interview, Dr Watkins said she hoped going to the space station would set an example for children of color, and “especially young girls of color, to be able to see an example of the ways they can participate. and succeed “.

She added: “For me this has been very important, and so if I can contribute in one way or another, it is really worth it.”

Only seven of the 249 people who have boarded the space station since its inception in 2000 were black. Victor Glover, a Navy commander and test pilot who joined the NASA Astronaut Corps in 2013, became the first black crew member in a regular long-term mission at the station; his mission began last year. The six black astronauts who had visited the space station before Mr. Glover were among the space shuttle crews who stayed for about 12 days.

In 1983, Guion S. Bluford became the first black American to go to space, and Mae Jemison was the first black woman to do so, in 1992. In 1961, Ed Dwight, an Air Force pilot, was NASA’s first black astronaut trainee, but he was not selected. In September, SpaceX Inspiration4 member Sian Proctor amateur astronaut mission who went to orbit but not to the space station, became the first black woman to serve as a spaceship pilot.

Jeanette Epps, a NASA astronaut, was originally slated to be the first black woman to live and work on the space station, in 2018. But she was replaced by another astronaut for reasons that NASA has not explained. She remains scheduled for a six-month mission as part of the first operational astronaut crew to fly Boeing’s Starliner capsule at the station. But the development of this capsule is years late. This summer, a faulty valve set discovered on Starliner’s propulsion system ahead of an unmanned test launch further delayed Dr Epps’ mission to late 2022 at the earliest.

Dr Watkins completed his undergraduate studies at Stanford University and received a doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles, with a study of landslides on Mars and the Earth. She has worked with NASA Science Labs, on projects such as the mission of the Mars Curiosity rover, and joined the Astronaut Corps in 2017. Becoming an astronaut, she said, was “something I had dreamed of for a very long time since I was a little girl, but certainly not something I thought would someday happen.” .

Last year she was among 18 NASA astronauts named to represent agency’s Artemis program, a multibillion-dollar effort to bring humans, including the first woman and the first person of color, to the moon’s surface in 2025. The astronauts that NASA sent to the moon during the Apollo program were all white men. In recent years, the agency has sought to make its astronaut programs more representative of the American population.

“Exploring space beyond LEO is a huge effort, and we must have the participation of all parts of our society,” said Ken Bowersox, senior NASA Space Operations Wing official and former astronaut. , at an event last week, referring to the agency’s goals beyond low earth orbit.

Dr Watkins had trained for space travel for months before his assignment to the crew. she has finished spacewalk simulations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and learned the ins and outs of the Space Station, a football-sized science lab 260 miles above Earth.

“It is certainly not lost on me that we have come to this point in history,” she said of being the first black woman to serve a long-term mission. “This moment is not as good if we are not able to focus on the work and perform well.”



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