Skip to main content

Jessica Watkins Is Going Places Most Can Only Dream Of

The astronaut will be the first Black woman to complete a long-term mission on the ISS.
jessica final

While countless women have an incredible number of accomplishments, few are out of this world…literally. At 33, Jessica Watkins can already say she was an international rugby player, a graduate of Stanford and a trained NASA astronaut. Now she's set to make history in April as the first Black woman to complete a long-term mission on the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the Artemis program.

The history-making feat is long overdue but no less impressive. Since the year 2000, just 244 people have boarded the ISS, and of those, only 10 have been Black. A few Black women have ventured into space, but Watkins will be the first to carry out a six-month mission during which she will study and photograph geological changes on Earth.

Scroll to Continue

More from SwimLife

Even before this announcement, the Colorado native has been a source of inspiration. With the STEM field being heavily male-dominated, Watkins stands out. Along with her B.S. in Geological and Environmental Sciences from Stanford, she holds a doctorate in Geology from UCLA. She then went to work at NASA, including time as a science team collaborator for the Mars Science Laboratory rover.

Not surprisingly, NASA took notice of Watkins’s knowledge and skill and enrolled her in the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class. Now, after two years of training—which included learning to fly a plane—she will be a mission specialist on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission.

“We are building on the foundation that was laid by the Black women astronauts who have come before me,” Watkins said in January. “I’m definitely honored to be a small part of that legacy, but ultimately be an equal member of the crew.”

Beginning on International Women’s Day (March 8), the Pay With Change initiative will be front and center on SI Swim channels through daily spotlights on the women, brands and properties making a concerted effort to fight for women’s equality.