By Tanya Maswaure
Since October 31 2000, there has always been a human life in space because of the International Space Station, including people managing the station. Still, in most recent news, Jessica Watkins is the first black woman in history to be part of an extended space mission, making her the first black woman to work and stay at the International Space Station.
After joining NASA as an intern, Jessica became an astronaut at the age of 28 and will she is now flying her first mission at the age of 33. She is also the 5th Black woman to go to space after Mae Jemison, the first in 1992. NASA announced last November that Watkins would serve as a mission specialist for the SpaceX Crew-4 mission, the fourth rotation of astronauts on the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the ISS. This is a six-month station stay scheduled to launch no earlier than April 19, 2022. On April 27, her group departed from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. Jessica Watkins was also selected as one out of 12 new NASA candidates. This is incredibly impressive since there were over 18,300 applicants.
Jessica Watkins was born in Maryland but considers Lafayette, Colorado, her hometown and where she attended Fairview High School. She previously worked as a geologist with a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and a doctorate in geology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Later after interning, Jessica Watkins worked as a post-doctoral fellow on the science team for the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity.
Not only is she an astronaut, but Watkins also played rugby, playing on national teams and even, in 2009, placing 3rd at the Rugby World Cup Sevens with the USA Eagles team. At Caltech, Watkins also volunteered as the assistant coach for the school’s women’s basketball team, and she also plays soccer and goes rock climbing and skiing in her spare time. A multi-faceted woman, Jessica continues to go above and beyond in everything she does. Watkins is determined to be an inspiration and set the pace for many young girls who aspire to take similar paths.
This journey is not her last, but only the beginning as NASA also announced she would be part of another team named the “Artemis Team” that will eventually fly to the moon. She will be travelling with Stephanie Wilson, who was the second black woman in space on this trip.
“A dream feels like a big faraway goal that’s going to be difficult to achieve or something you might achieve much later in life,” Watkins said in a video released by NASA last year. “But in reality, a dream realized is just one putting one foot in front of the other on a daily basis. If you put enough of those footprints together, eventually, they become a path towards your dreams.”