Astronaut Jessica Watkins, the First Black Woman to Serve Aboard the International Space Station, is From Gaithersburg 

by Patrick Herron

Jessica Watkins became the first Black woman astronaut to be a part of a crew aboard the International Space Station when SpaceX’s Crew-4 mission launched on Wednesday morning. Watkins and her three other crew members will be on the station for around six months. Born in Gaithersburg in 1988, her family later moved to Layfette, Colorado where she graduated high school.  She then went on to play rugby at Stanford University in California, where she received her bachelor’s degree in geological and environmental sciences. She later earned a Ph.D. in geology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“I think it’s important to recognize this as a milestone for our agency and for our country, as well, to know that we are building on the foundation that was laid by the Black woman astronauts who’ve come before me,” Watkins told NPR

Per NASA: Jessica Watkins was selected by NASA to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class.  Watkins reported for duty in August 2017 and completed two years of training as an astronaut candidate.  The Colorado native earned a Bachelor of Science in Geological and Environmental Sciences from Stanford University, and a Doctorate in Geology from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).  Dr. Watkins conducted her graduate research on the emplacement mechanisms of large landslides on Mars and Earth.  She has worked at NASA’s Ames Research Center and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and was a science team collaborator for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity.  Watkins is currently serving as a mission specialist on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station, which launched on April 27, 2022.


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