BREVARD, Florida – The first black woman to live and work on the International Space Station will join a SpaceX crew mission after April 2022, marking her maiden flight into space.
NASA said Jessica Watkins, 33, had been assigned to Crew Dragon’s fourth and final headquarters for SpaceX’s Crew-4 mission.
The selection also means Watkins will become the first black woman to join an ISS crew for scientific research, station maintenance, training and more over a six-month period. Victor Glover, who is part of SpaceX’s Crew-2 mission that launched in November 2020, has become the first black astronaut to join a station crew.
The black astronauts visited the ISS during the space shuttle program that ran until 2011, but their stays were relatively brief and did not include full expeditions of several months. A total of 248 people visited the now 21-year-old ISS; seven of them were black.
In 1983, Guion Bluford became the first black astronaut to travel in space. Mae Jemison followed nine years later and became the first black woman to do the same.
Watkins will fly as a mission specialist with three other colleagues: Robert Hines and Kjell Lindgren of NASA; and Samantha Cristoforetti from the European Space Agency. She considers Lafayette, Colorado, to be her hometown and was a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology prior to her selection as an astronaut in 2017.
Separately, NASA announced last year that Watkins had also been chosen for the prestigious Artemis program, which aims to get astronauts back to the lunar surface no earlier than 2025. The exact roles and missions have yet to be completed. been unveiled.
Jeanette Epps was originally chosen to be the first black woman to join an ISS crew in 2018, but NASA reassigned her seat to another astronaut for reasons that were never specified. It would have launched towards the ISS aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan.
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