Jessica Watkins will make history as the first Black woman to complete a long-term mission on the International Space Station (ISS) on the upcoming SpaceX Crew-4 launch, according to a statement released by NASA.
Joining Watkins on her first voyage into space, which is set to launch in April 2022, are NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. The crew will complete a six-month science mission in the ISS’s microgravity laboratory, where Watkins will serve as the team’s mission specialist.
Preceding Watkins was Guion S. Bluford in 1983, who was the first Black American to reach space, and Mae Jemison in 1992, who was the first Black woman to venture into space when she joined the Space Shuttle Endeavor team.
Astronaut Jeanette Epps was set to be the first Black woman to work and live on the ISS back in 2018, but Serena Auñón-Chancellor ended up taking her place.
Since the ISS was launched in 1998, out of the 249 esteemed astronauts, only seven were Black.
Watkins hopes that her accomplishments will set an example to children of color, “particularly young girls of color,” she told the New York Times, explaining that she would like for them “to be able to see an example of ways that they can participate and succeed.”
Source image: NASA/Bill Ingalls