The time has come, NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins is now the first Black woman to make the trek to the International Space Station for an extended mission.
On Wednesday, her journey began when she, alongside fellow astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, and Samantha Cristoforetti hopped on the SpaceX Dragon to begin their mission to the ISS, NPR reports. The team traveled over 15 hours from the Kennedy Space Center located in Dallas, TX, and will remain on the trip over the course of six months.
While she is not the first Black woman to go to space, the trip remains historic as it’s a huge leap into the future of space as it pertains to Black women.
“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,” said Watkins when the news was announced and reported by AfroTech in November 2021. “Also, recognizing this is a step in the direction of a very exciting future. So to be a part of this is certainly an honor.”
Passing The Baton
Much like the women who came before her — like the legendary Mae Jemison who became the first woman to travel to space in 1992, Watkins will continue to be a beacon of hope for Black women that come behind her.
“For me, 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,” she said in a previous interview with NBC. “To the extent that I’m able to do that for others, for other young girls or other young people of color, I’m grateful for the opportunity to return the favor.”
Other Black women who have smashed glass ceilings through missions to space include Stephanie Wilson, Joan Higginbotham, as well as the first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft, Sian Proctor.
A Dream Fulfilled
Watkins’ mission to space began back in 2017. She was chosen as an astronaut candidate after starting her career as an intern for NASA where she operated as a geologist and researcher.
“A dream feels like a big, faraway goal that’s going to be difficult to achieve or something you might achieve much later in life,” Watkins said in a video shared by NASA in 2020. “But in reality, what a dream realized is is just one putting one foot in front of the other on a daily basis. If you put enough of those footprints together, eventually they become a path towards your dreams.”
While she aspires to one day land on the moon, for now, her dreams continue through this current historic mission at the ISS.