Black women are making historic strides in the space industry. According to CNN, astronaut Jessica Watkins was appointed to serve on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission team, making her the first Black woman to join an international space station crew.
Watkins’ roots at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration run deep. The Colorado native—who holds degrees from Stanford University and the University of California, Los Angeles—started her journey at NASA as an intern and worked her way up the ranks. Throughout her time at the agency, she’s served in roles at NASA’s Ames Research Center and Southern California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
For the SpaceX Crew-4 assignment, which will be her first trip to space, Watkins will serve as a mission specialist. The mission will last for six months. She and the other astronauts on the team are slated to travel into space in April 2022, leaving from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The trip marks the Crew Dragon spacecraft’s fourth crew rotation.
Watkins—who was part of the Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity rover science team—says pursuing a career in space exploration has inspired her to dream big, and she hopes that she can empower others to do the same. “In reality, what a dream is—or a dream realized is—is just putting one foot in front of the other on a daily basis,” she shared in a video. “If you put enough of those footprints together eventually, they become a path towards your dreams. One of the things that I enjoy the most about geology intellectually is you function as a detective. You’re looking at different puzzle pieces in different places, and you’re trying to bring those puzzle pieces together to get a full story, a full history of what has happened in a particular place.”
Watkins stands on the shoulders of giants like Dr. Mae Jemison, who became the first Black woman to go to space 29 years ago.