When the next SpaceX Dragon capsule heads to space, one of its crew members will make history. Jessica Watkins, who will be on board, will be the fifth Black woman to go to space and the first Black woman to work on the International Space Station.
“You know there’s not enough of us. Women are underrepresented in science, although it’s getting better in some ways,” said Mae Jemison, who shattered a major glass ceiling when she became the first Black woman to go to space in 1992.
Watkins’ career with NASA started as an intern. She was a researcher and geologist before she was chosen to be an astronaut candidate in 2017. She and three other crew members are currently scheduled to take off from Kennedy Space Center on April 26. They will spend six months doing research and maintenance on the International Space Station lab.
In an interview with NBC News, Watkins said she’s been preparing for her moment in space for a long time through simulations, and is more than ready to get up there and see the real thing. She also appreciates all of the trailblazers who have made her trip possible.
“We have reached this milestone, this point in time, and the reason we’re able to arrive at this time is because of the legacy of those who have come before to allow for this moment,” Watkins said. “Also, recognizing this is a step in the direction of a very exciting future. So to be a part of that is certainly an honor.”
According to the space advocacy non-profit organization Space Frontier Foundation, nearly 90 percent of people who have been to space are white men. Kim Macharia, a Black woman who serves as foundation chair, says Watkins trip to space has been a long time coming. “The fact that it’s taken this long to get African American folks on the ISS is disappointing. But it’s nice to see this focus is finally happening,” she said.