Black NASA Astronaut Makes Outer Space History

Photo: Getty Images

Black women are really out of this world –– literally.

NASA Astronaut Jessica Watkins is set to make history as the first Black woman to join the International Space Station crew for a long term mission.

Watkins joined NASA's astronaut corps in 2017 and is set to fly out as a mission specialist on SpaceX's next astronaut flight in April. Since its creation in 2000, the Space Station has only had seven Black people on board out of 249.

The first Black long-term mission crew member, Navy commander Victor Glover, joined the crew just last year.

Watkins will add on to the Black astronauts continuing to break inter-galactic barriers, starting with Ed Dwight who became NASA first Black astronaut trainee in 1961, and Guion S. Bluford who became the first Black American in space in 1983. Dr. Mae Jamison made history in 1992 as the first Black woman to go into space.

In an interview with The New York Times, Dr. Watkins says she hopes her mission aboard the Space Station will inspire Black children and other children of color, "particularly young girls of color, to be able to see an example of ways that they can participate and succeed."

"For me, that's been really important, and so if I can contribute to that in some way, that's definitely worth it," she added.

Dr. Watkins is a geologist and native of Lafayette, Colorado. She earned an undergraduate degree from Stanford University and doctorate from UCLA. She's worked with NASA on Mars research projects for several years before joining the astronaut training program.

Becoming an astronaut, she said, was "something I dreamed about for a very long time ever since I was pretty little, but definitely not something I thought would ever happen."

Dr. Watkins is gearing up for the trip, enduring training and learning the ins and outs of the space center.

"It is certainly not lost on me that we've arrived in this moment in history," she said of her scheduled history-making flight. "This moment is not as worthwhile if we are not able to focus on the job and perform well."

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