Sometimes history can be made by just being your authentic self.
Jessica Watkins didn’t set out to be the first Black woman to join a space station crew. She set out to be amazing in her field and as such, the NASA astronaut is all set to become the first Black woman to joint the International Space Station next year. Which means “she will live and work in space on a long-duration mission on the orbiting outpost,” Today reports.
Watkins will fly to the space station in April 2022, alongside NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Robert Hines and astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency.”
They are slated to launch aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The mission, known as Crew-4, is expected to last six months.
Watkins, a geologist who earned an undergraduate degree from Stanford University and a doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles, will serve as a mission specialist during the Crew-4 flight. She was chosen to become an astronaut candidate in 2017 and the April mission will be her first trip to space, according to the agency.
The news network notes that several Black astronauts have traveled into space and even visited the space station during it’s 21-year history, none have stayed longer than two weeks.
Victor Glover became the first Black astronaut to go on a long-term mission at the space station and Watkins seeks to be the first Black woman to do the same.
This is assuming that Watkins isn’t pulled from the mission right before she was about to take off. Sound like I’m being pessimistic? Well, that’s because Jeanette Epps was supposed to the first Black astronaut – man or woman – to do an extended stay at the space station in 2018, but she was pulled six months before the flight, Today reports.
NASA never explained why Epps was taken off the mission but Epp’s brother told the Washington Post that racism at the space agency was the reason for the abrupt crew change. And I believe him because NASA is on Earth and Earth is racist AF.
Today notes that “Last year, Watkins was chosen to join a select group of NASA astronauts leading the agency’s multibillion-dollar Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the moon. As part of the initiative, NASA is expected to land the first woman and the first person of color on the lunar surface by 2025.”
“A dream feels like a big, faraway goal that is going to be difficult to achieve, and something that you might achieve much later in life,” Watkins said in a video released in December. “But 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. And if you put enough of those footprints together, eventually they become a path towards your dreams.”