LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) Novice NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles and previously worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, will serve aboard the International Space Station next year.
Watkins will be the first black woman to serve as part of the crew aboard the orbiting station.
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She will be a member of the fourth crew launched for the station by Hawthorne-based Space-X under a commercial contract with NASA. A geologist by subject, Watkins will serve as a mission specialist as a member of Crew-4, according to NASA.
The crew, including Watkins, will include NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Robert Hines and European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. They are scheduled to be launched in April 2022 in a Crew Dragon spacecraft propelled into space by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
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They will spend six months on the space station, making Watkins the first black woman to serve long-term service in outer space. Other black women have flown in space but have never served as long-term members of the space station crew.
According to NASA, Watkins was born in Maryland but grew up in Lafayette, Colorado. She holds a bachelor’s degree in geological and environmental sciences from Stanford University and a doctorate in geology from UCLA, where her master’s research focused on “the location mechanisms of major landslides on Mars and Earth.”
She worked at NASA and then worked at the space agency’s Ames Research Center and at JPL. She was also a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Geological and Planetary Sciences at Caltech and worked on the Mars rover Curiosity.
Watkins was also a volunteer assistant coach for Caltech’s women’s basketball team.
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