NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins is about to make history in a way that is out of this world — literally.
The astronaut will become the first Black woman to serve aboard the International Space Station once the SpaceX Crew successfully takes off this Wednesday, April 27, from the Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida.
Notably, Watkins will also be the fifth Black woman ever to go to space.
The history maker is “one of 12 new NASA astronaut candidates selected out of over 18,300 applicants,” according to Space.com.
Her first journey into space is expected to be a six-month stay at the ISS — where she’ll conduct laboratory research and do maintenance at the space hub alongside fellow NASA astronauts Robert Hines and Kjell Lindgren, and European Space Agency’s Samantha Cristoforetti, NBC News reports.
“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 told the outlet. “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.”
“Growing up and throughout my career, it’s been really important for me to see people who look like me or have my background or similar experiences in the roles that I aspire to or contributing in ways that I aspire to contribute,” she added. “To the extent that I am able to do that for other young girls or young people of color, I’m grateful for the opportunity to return the favor.”
Watkins’ trip to outer space follows in the footsteps of Mae Jemison, Sian Proctor, Stephanie Wilson and Joan Higginbotham — the four other Black female trailblazing astronauts who’ve gone to space.
Watkins became a member of NASA’s Astronaut Group in 2017. Now listed as a mission specialist by the agency in relation to her role in the upcoming space venture, the astronaut previously interned at NASA and held several other positions, such as being a researcher and a chief geologist.
Congrats to Watkins!