NASA Astronaut Jessica Watkins Begins Her Historic ISS Mission

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NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts (L-- R) :Jessica Watkins, Bob Hines, and Kjell Lindgren, and ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforett (Credit: NASA Kennedy/ CC-By-SA-2.0/Flickr)

All space missions are significant. However, SpaceX's Crew-4 mission, which docked at the International Space Station (ISS) on April 28, 2022, was particularly historic. The approximately 16-hour flight was SpaceX's fastest Dragon astronaut trip to the space lab yet. More importantly, the crew of four included Jessica Watkins — the first African American woman assigned to the ISS on a long-term mission.

"I think it's important to recognize this as a milestone for our agency and for our country, as well, to know that we are building on the foundation that was laid by the Black woman astronauts who've come before me," Watkins told NPR's Morning Edition. "I'm definitely honored to be a small part of that legacy, but ultimately be an equal member of the crew.

Jessica Watkins is the first African American woman to serve at the ISS on a long-term mission (Credit: Bill Ingalls/ CC-By-SA 2.0 / NASA.gov)

Watkins and her two fellow NASA astronauts — Kjell Lindgren and Bob Hines — and Samantha Cristoforetti from the European Space Agency (ESA) will spend six months aboard the ISS. They will conduct scientific research, station maintenance, and training.

Watkins is the fifth Black female to go to space. The first was NASA astronaut Mae Jemison, who was part of the space shuttle Endeavor crew that orbited Earth for eight days, from September 12, 1992, to September 20, 1992. The second, Stephanie Wilson, went to the ISS on three missions between 2006 and 2010. Until Watkins' latest assignment, Wilson held the record (42 days total) for the most time spent at the ISS by a female African American astronaut.

Joan Higginbotham, the third Black female astronaut in space, spent 13 days at the ISS in December 2006. The fourth, Dr. Sian Proctor, was one of four civilians selected for SpaceX's privately-chartered Inspiration4 mission in 2021. The spacecraft circled Earth for three days at an altitude of about 367 miles (590 kilometers).

The ISS mission may be just the start of Watkins' historic space expeditions. The 33-year-old geologist is part of NASA's Artemis program to land humans on the Moon again. Watkins has an excellent chance of being selected, given the mission's goals of landing the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon. Stephanie Wilson is also in contention for the coveted spot. We hope both trailblazers are selected for the epic mission.

Resources: NASA.gov, Space.com, Wikipedia.org, NPR.org

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34 Comments
  • sparkleboon
    My dream will be that!
    • wafflecone
      Welp, this is very impressive. However, I am confused how there has never been an african american woman that went to the ISS on a mission like this. But cool Ig. #nolimits
      • bustabopeep21
        wow good for her #girlpower and# anyone can do anything
        • glitchplayz786
          Hope she will make to the moon and back to earth
          • olulu
            olulu8 days
            this was exactly one week ago, i wonder if the astronauts are up in outer space already?
            • livdemorest
              If there's a will there's a way :)
              • mathrules
                mathrules10 days
                Inspiring!
                • doloresmadrigal
                  Wow! This is so cool and insipiring! I don't wish to do that one day but its cool to learn about but astraunaut isn't my dream job an actor is. But I wish everyone the best of luck if they wanna be an astraunaut I really wish any one to achieve there dream job! This makes people believe in them selves even people with color! #blacklivesmatter. I believe no matter what color you are you can't di anything you dream of if you try hard enough! This is an example! ANYWHO HAVE A GREAT DAY YALL BYE!
                • marmar0707
                  marmar070713 days
                  This is a significant thing that’s happening. Imagine if one of us gets to do that
                  • purplepearls
                    I like that we are fighting gender inequality and racism