Rookie NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins, who holds a doctorate from UCLA and beforehand labored on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, made aerospace historical past Wednesday when she launched on a mission that made her the primary Black girl to function a crew member on the Worldwide House Station.
Hawthorne-based SpaceX launched the mission from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 12:52 a.m. Wednesday Pacific Daylight Time. Watkins and the opposite three members of “Crew-4” — the fourth operational crew launched by SpaceX to the station below a contract with NASA —have been flying aboard a brand new Crew Dragon spacecraft dubbed Freedom.
Whereas the Dragon spacecraft is new, the primary stage of the Falcon 9 rocket that propelled the crew on its means has been utilized in three earlier missions. SpaceX recovered the rocket once more by touchdown it on a barge named “A Shortfall of Gravitas” floating within the Atlantic Ocean.
SpaceX has made a behavior of recovering and reusing the rocket boosters as a technique to dramatically scale back the price of future missions.
A geologist by commerce, Watkins is a mission specialist as a member of Crew-4, based on NASA. Flying with Watkins on the mission are NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Robert Hines and European House Company astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.
The crew will spend six months on the area station, making Watkins the primary Black girl to serve prolonged responsibility in outer area. Different Black girls have flown in area, however have by no means served as a long-term member of the area station crew.
In response to NASA, Watkins was born in Maryland however grew up in Lafayette, Colorado. She has a bachelor’s diploma in geological and environmental sciences from Stanford College and a doctorate in geology from UCLA, the place her graduate analysis centered on “the emplacement mechanisms of enormous landslides on Mars and Earth.”
She interned at NASA after which labored on the area company’s Ames Analysis Middle and at JPL. She was additionally a postdoctoral fellow within the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at Caltech, engaged on the Mars rover Curiosity. She was additionally a volunteer assistant coach for the Caltech girls’s basketball crew.