Representation in space exploration is crucial, and Sian Proctor stands among the luminaries.

A woman on a mission, Proctor aspired to have an impact on society. The geoscientist had been “chasing space” throughout her lifetime, mentions. Born the same year Neil Armstrong made history with his first steps on the moon during NASA’s Apollo 11 mission, and raised with a father working at the NASA tracking station on Guam, Proctor would go on to make her own significant contributions.

Historical Firsts

As previously reported by AFROTECH™, Proctor became the first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft. This was accomplished after she earned a Ph.D. along with a pilot’s license and SCUBA certification. She also completed a four-month mission in a building located near a Hawaiian volcano for an experiment imitating the conditions and stresses on a habitat like Mars in 2013.

Ultimately, Proctor’s expertise, creativity, and dedication to her JEDI space initiative — a just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive space — captured the interest of the judges for the SpaceX Inspiration4 mission, as noted on her website. 

“I feel really fortunate, you know, I’m a trained geoscientist,” Dr. Proctor said, according to the National Geographic. “But when I applied to go to space on Inspiration4, I said, ‘Look, you need to send an artist and a poet.’ Because it’s such an important part of humanity going out into space. The human part of us is the art, the music, the dancing, the expression, the culture that we bring along with us. It’s not just about the science, the technology, the engineering, and the math that gets us there.”

The Inspiration4 mission, led by commander, Jared Isaacman; mission specialist, Chris Sembroski; and medical officer, Hayley Arceneaux, lasted a span of three days, and $200 million was raised for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN, per AFROTECH™.

In reflection, Proctor encourages women to believe that their dreams are achievable at any age.

“Don’t give up on a dream,” she said. “A lot of times you think that after you raise your kids, or that when you’re in your 40s, 50s or 60s, that the best part of your life has already passed you by, and that some of the things you had dreams of doing when you were a kid, you think you’re too old to pursue them or that you can’t achieve them now.”

She continued: “So I just want to be a spokeswoman, not only for women and girls of color, but for women in general. We live longer than men. It’s so important that we understand that our golden years can be some of our best years. Because we’re so much wiser, right? You’re in your 50s, and you’re like, ‘Look, I’m unapologetic. The phoenix has risen. I am who I am, and I’m so much wiser than I was when I was in my 20s and 30s.’”

AFROTECH™ Future 50

We celebrate Proctor as a Future Maker on our 2024 AFROTECH™ Future 50 list for shattering glass ceilings and groundbreaking innovation within the technology sector.

To view the full AFROTECH™ Future 50 list, click here.