Jessica Watkins is on her way to mark an out-of-this-world milestone. Early Wednesday morning, Watkins made history as the first Black woman to hit the sky for an extended mission at the International Space Station, reports Huffington Post.
Watkins ― who previously worked as a geologist after earning a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and a doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles ― blasted off with three other other astronauts from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to embark on a long-term space mission.
“I think it really is just a tribute to the legacy of the Black women astronauts that have come before me, as well as to the exciting future ahead,” Watkins said.
Watkins, born in Maryland, began her career as a as a NASA intern before working at multiple research centers in California. She was a postdoctoral fellow on the science team for the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity during her astronaut selection in 2017.
As part of the current Crew-4 mission, Watkins plans to conduct scientific research, perform station maintenance and undergo training while orbiting the Earth. The crew is scheduled for a six-month stint in the ISS laboratory.