This will be Watkins’ first trip to space following her selection as an astronaut in 2017.
To quote from npr.org:
She will arrive there onboard a SpaceX capsule and then spend six months on the ISS as part of NASA’s Artemis program, a multi-billion dollar effort designed to return humans to the surface of the moon in 2025.
“We are building on the foundation that was laid by the Black women astronauts who have 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.”
Watkins will cover a lot of ground on her mission: earth and space science, biological science and human research into things like the effects of long-duration spaceflight for humans. That’s when the astronauts themselves become “the lab rats,” Watkins told NPR.
Watkins said the journey to space has wide-ranging implications on everything from medical research “with direct impacts into our daily lives,” to international collaboration. Even amid tensions here on Earth between Washington and Moscow over Ukraine, she notes, the U.S. portion of the ISS is docked to the Russian segment.
“We are all coming together to accomplish this really hard thing that none of us would be able to do on our own,” Watkins said. “I think that is just such a beautiful picture of what we can all do if we come together and put all of our resources and skill sets together.”
Of the roughly 250 people who have boarded the ISS, fewer than 10 have been Black. Prior to the inception of the space station, Mae Jemison, an engineer and physician, became the first Black woman to travel to space in 1992. Other Black women have followed, including NASA astronauts Stephanie Wilson and Joan Higginbotham.
Watkins was born in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and considers Lafayette, Colorado, her hometown. She earned a bachelor’s degree in geological and environmental sciences from Stanford University and a doctorate in geology from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Dr. Watkins conducted her graduate research on the emplacement mechanisms of large landslides on Mars and Earth. She began her career at NASA as an intern and has worked at the agency’s Ames Research Center in California and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
At the time of her astronaut selection, Watkins was a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at the California Institute of Technology, where she collaborated as a member of the Science Team for the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity.
For more than 21 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station in low-Earth Orbit, advancing scientific knowledge, demonstrating new technologies, and making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth.
Through the Commercial Crew Program and broader commercial efforts, NASA is working with private industry to develop human space transportation services and a robust low-Earth orbit economy that enables the agency to focus on building spacecraft and rockets for deep space missions to the Moon and Mars.
Original article source: https://goodblacknews.org/2022/02/05/dr-jessica-watkins-set-to-become-1st-black-woman-astronaut-to-spend-months-in-space-video/ | Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council