The geologist will live and work in space for six months!
Dr. Jessica Watkins is preparing to become the first Black woman to spend six months in space, NPR reports.
Since she was young, Watkins has dreamed of becoming an astronaut. The Stanford graduate got her bachelor’s degree in geological and environmental sciences, hoping to one day study the geology of other planets. In 2017, when she was recruited as the youngest member of NASA’s astronaut training program and the only Black person, she got that much closer to her childhood dream. Then last year it happened, Watkins being chosen to become the first Black woman to join NASA’s International Space Station (ISS) crew for an extended mission.
Since then, the 33 year old has worked overtime, undergoing spacewalk simulations, learning how to fix things on the Space Station and training on various systems. Now she’s just months away from launching, set to head to the Space Station this April. She will travel onboard the SpaceX capsule, spending six months on the ISS as part of NASA’s Artemis program, a multi-billion dollar endeavor focused on allowing humans to return to the moon by 2025.
“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,” Watkins told reporters.
Those pioneering Black women astronauts include the first Black woman to travel to space, Mae Jemison, NASA astronauts Stephanie Wilson and Joan Higginbotham, and Sian Proctor, an Arizona geologist who was selected to join Space X’s private Inspiration 4 flight.
On her mission, Watkins will research a number of things including the effects of long-duration spaceflight for humans, geological changes on Earth and the direct impact of space travel on everyday life. For example, even with U.S. tensions rising between Washington and Moscow over Ukraine, the U.S. portion of the ISS dock is still connected to the Russian portion.
“We are all coming together to accomplish this really hard thing that none of us would be able to do on our own. I think that is just such a beautiful picture of what we can all do if we come together and put all of our resources and skill sets together,” Watkins said.
Congratulations, Dr. Watkins! Because of you, we can!
Photo Courtesy of Mark Felix/AFP/Getty Images