At an early age, Sian Proctor dreamed to be afforded an opportunity to enter the galactic world.
While celebrating her now achieved goal, she also made history in the process, becoming the first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft, according to the New York Times.
Determined to reach space, Proctor received her Ph.D. along with a pilot’s license and SCUBA certification. In 2009, she was selected to participate in the final round of NASA’s competitive astronaut selection process — an impressive feat for a cohort consisting of 3,500 applicants. Unfortunately, her candidacy would ultimately be rejected.
Others may have stopped, but for Proctor, her rejection would serve as the catalyst to discovering a new path. In 2013, she would accompany six individuals during 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.
Proctor caught the eyes of a panel of judges for the Inspiration4 mission because of her knowledge, creativity, and her passion project — a just, equitable, diverseand inclusive space (JEDI space), per Dr. Proctor’s 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.”
During the three-day mission, Proctor and her crewmates raised an impressive $200 million, which will be given to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. The exploration was led by commander, Jared Isaacman; mission specialist, Chris Sembroski; and medical officer, Hayley Arceneaux. The rare opportunity was presented with bright sunlight, musical moments, and of course indulging in science.
Serving as a trailblazer, Dr. Proctor has now opened the door for other minority groups to follow suit in an arena that has failed to broaden access to people of color. Proctor wants her mission to inspire women of color regardless of how old they are.
“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.”
Congratulations, Dr. Proctor!