Two decades after the International Space Station became humanity’s long-lasting home in orbit, Jessica Watkins, a NASA astronaut, is poised to become the first Black woman to join its crew for a long-term mission.
NASA announced on Tuesday that Dr. Watkins, a geologist raised in Lafayette, Colo., would serve as a mission specialist on SpaceX’s next astronaut flight, known as Crew-4, to the space station. She will join two other NASA astronauts and an Italian astronaut for a six-month mission aboard the orbital lab that is scheduled to start in April.
In an interview, Dr. Watkins said she hoped going to the space station would set an example for children of color, and “particularly young girls of color, to be able to see an example of ways that they can participate and succeed.”
She added, “For me, that’s been really important, and so if I can contribute to that in some way, that’s definitely worth it.”
Only seven of the 249 people who have boarded the space station since its creation in 2000 were Black. Victor Glover, a Navy commander and test pilot who joined NASA’s astronaut corps in 2013, became the first Black crew member in a regular long-duration mission at the station; his mission started last year. The six Black astronauts who had visited the space station before Mr. Glover were part of space shuttle crews that stayed for roughly 12 days.
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