by Asha C Gilbert
Jessica Watkins made history on Wednesday when she became the first black woman to be launched into space on an extended mission to the International Space Station.
Watkins, 33, and three others astronauts Launched into space from the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida at 3:52 a.m. EDT.
“I think this is really just a tribute to the legacy of the black women astronauts who came before me, as well as the exciting future that lies ahead,” Watkins said during an interview with NPR.
Last November, NASA announced that Watkins would be the fourth and final seat on the Crew Dragon mission on SpaceX’s Crew-4 mission.
The mission means that she will be the first black woman to join the crew of the International Space Station scientific reseachand station maintenance, training and more over six months. Previously, Victor Glover, part of SpaceX’s Crew-2 mission that launched in November 2020, became the first black astronaut to join the station’s crew.
Of the 248 astronauts who visited the International Space Station, only seven were black and none were included in multi-month expeditions.
In 1983, Guion Bluford became the first black astronaut to travel into space. Mae Jameson followed nine years later and became the first black woman to do the same.
NASA also announced last year that Watkins had been selected for the Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the Moon no later than 2025.
Wednesday’s flight sent Bob Heinz and Kjell Lindgren of the European Space Agency and Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency into orbit.
It is expected to dock at the International Space Station at 8:15 p.m. EDT if schedules continue.
“For me, growing up, it was important to me an example In the roles I aspire to be in, and contribute in ways that I aspire to contribute,” Watkins told NPR. So as much as I can do that, I’m proud and grateful to have the opportunity to give back. ”
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