“To see that she is making history and she is paving the way for someone else who is going to come behind her is incredible”
Joan Higginbotham, a former NASA astronaut who flew aboard Space Shuttle Discovery mission STS-116, is talking about Jessica Watkins. Watkins is serving as a mission specialist on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission which launched on April 27th, 2022. Watkins is the fifth African American woman in space, but has made history as the first African American woman to work and live on the International Space Station for an extended mission.
Out of roughly 250 people who have boarded the International Space station, fewer than 10 have been African American. Watkins will spend about six months aboard the station, but this may not be the last time she calls space home.
Higginbotham adds “she may make history again if she gets to do a space walk — by being the first African American woman to do a space walk.”
The astronauts that flew in the 1960s during NASA’s Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions that landed on the moon were all white men, now Watkins is tapped for NASA’s next program called Artemis. With this mission, NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon. This landing will occur on the Artemis 3 mission around 2025.