Astronaut Jessica Watkins is on her way to becoming the first Black woman to join NASA’s International Space Station crew.
According to NASA, Watkins, 33, will serve as a mission specialist on the agency’s SpaceX Crew-4 assignment, known as the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station. Watkins was selected as an astronaut in 2017 and this will be her first journey to outer space. The crew will be ready to launch in April 2022.
Watkins will be joined by NASA astronauts Kiell Lindgren and Robert Hines. European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti will also embark on the journey as a crew member.
Watkins is Gaithersburg, Maryland-born and Lafayette, Colorado-raised. She earned her bachelor’s degree in geological and environmental sciences from Stanford University. She also holds a doctorate in geology from the University of California. She interned at NASA at the beginning of her career and worked at the agency’s Ames Research Center.
“I’ve always been interested in science,” Watkins said in a 2016 documentary. “Particularly being passionate about planetary science. In an interview with the National Museum of African American History & Culture, Watkins elaborates further on laying the foundation for kids to discover passions early on in life.
“As a younger person, I think your best bet is to get involved with as much as you can. I talked about kind of finding your passion, but the only way you’re going to do that is if you get to experience lots of different things.”