Meet The 1st Black Woman to End a 6-month Stay on The International Space Station

NASA astronaut Dr Jessica Watkins, 33, is poised to become the first black woman to complete a long-term stay on the International Space Station (ISS).

Watkins, who was selected as an astronaut in 2017, is the latest member of the SpaceX Crew-4 mission that is scheduled to launch in April 2022 and spend six months on the giant orbiting laboratory.

She is joining NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Robert Hines, as well as European Space Agency’s (ESA) Samantha Cristoforetti.

Watkins told The New York Times she hopes going to the space station will set an example for children of color, and ‘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 said in an interview with the news outlet.

Along with being an astronaut, Watkins is also a geologist and played rugby while attending Stanford University.

There have been 249 people on the ISS since the craft became operational in November 2000.

However, the first black astronaut didn’t step foot onto the ship until November 2020.

NASA astronaut Victor Glover became the first black person to live on the orbiting lab for an extended stay, a total of six months, when he launched to the ISS with the SpaceX Crew-1 mission last year.


Dr Jeanette Epps, a NASA astronaut, was set to be the first black woman to live and work on the space station, in 2018, but was unexpectedly pulled from her June flight, according to The Washington Post.

Epps was reassigned to fly aboard Boeing’s Starliner capsule to the station, but the missions has been delayed until late 2022 due to a faulty set of valves.

This means Watkins will be the second black person and the first black woman to walk aboard.

Watkins was born in Gaithersburg, Maryland, but moved to Lafayette, Colorado at a young age and considers the mountain state her home.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in geological and environmental sciences from Stanford University and a doctorate in geology from the University of California, Los Angeles.

While attending Stanford, Watkins played rugby as a freshman and continued playing for the next four years.

As a sophomore, Watkins become a member of the Division I national champion team and is a former American women’s national team rugby player for the sevens.

Watkins played for the USA Eagles in its 3rd-place finish at the 2009 Rugby World Cup Sevens.

During the World Cup she was the leading try scorer for the US team.

Watkins began as an intern at NASA and has worked at the agency’s Ames Research Center in California and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

At the time of her astronaut selection, she was a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at the California Institute of Technology, where she collaborated as a member of the Science Team for the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity.

In June 2017, Watkins was selected as a member of NASA Astronaut Group 22 and began her two-year training in August.

In December 2020, she was selected to be a part of the Artemis Team to return humans to the moon.

Most recently, she was chosen as the 4th astronaut of Group 22 to be assigned a mission to ISS where she serve as a mission specialist.

Watkins will become the fifth black woman in space, following Dr Sian Proctor who launched aboard the world’s first all-civilian mission in September.

This mission, called Inspiration4, saw Proctor, Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux and Chris Sembroski spend three days in space, orbiting the Earth.

The first black astronaut in space was Guin S. Bluford in 1983 and the first black woman was Mae Jemison in 1992.

Jemison only spent eight days in space and neither were on the ISS, as it had not yet been built.

Related Articles

Back to top button