Jessica Watson the first Black woman aboard the International Space Station

Jessica Watson the first Black woman aboard the International Space Station

Nasa confirmed on Tuesday that Watkins will be one of the crew members on the forthcoming SpaceX Crew-4 mission, which is scheduled to fly in April of next year.

She will spend six months onboard the orbiting lab with two other Nasa astronauts and one Italian astronaut.

The International Space Station (ISS) has been in orbit for 21 years, yet just seven of the 249 individuals who have visited there are black, according to The New York Times.

Watkins, who began her career at Nasa as an intern, told the New York Times that she believes this would serve as an “example of ways that young females of colour may engage and thrive.”

International Space Station
Nasa astronaut Jessica Watkins (Credits: Nasa/Bill Ingalls)

Watkins is a geologist who was born and reared in Colorado and received her undergraduate degree from Stanford University. She subsequently went on to the University of California, Los Angeles, to get her PhD in landslides on Mars and Earth.

She formerly worked with Nasa on initiatives such as the Curiosity rover mission on Mars. After being selected as an astronaut in 2017, the April mission will be her maiden voyage to space.

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Becoming an astronaut was “something I fantasised of for a long time, ever since I was a small girl,” she added, but “certainly not something I imagined would ever happen.”

Last year, Nasa dispatched its first Black astronaut, Victor Glover, to the International Space Station on a long-term mission that lasted more than a few weeks.

Jeanette Epps came close to being the first Black woman to live and work on the International Space Station in 2018, but she was replaced by another astronaut for reasons that Nasa has yet to explain.

Sian Proctor, a participant of SpaceX’s Inspiration4 amateur astronaut mission that flew to orbit but not to the space station, made history in September by being the first Black woman to fly a spacecraft.

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Watkins was one of the astronauts picked by Nasa last year to symbolise the agency’s lunar mission, which aims to land the first woman and the first person of colour on the moon in 2025.

The 13 astronauts, 11 from NASA and two from the Canadian Space Agency, were the first to graduate from the Artemis programme and became eligible for spaceflight, which included postings to the International Space Station, Artemis trips to the Moon, and eventually missions to Mars.

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