Out of 18,300 applicants, only 12 new people were chosen by NASA for two years of training before giving them the title of ‘astronaut.’
Jessica Watkins is in that new class of astronauts and she is the only Black woman chosen to for this program. So it’s safe to say the scientist is already blazing a new path for future astronauts to follow.
Before being accepted in the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class, Watkins worked at NASA’s Ames Research Center and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and was a collaborator on the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity.
“Since the age of 9, I wanted to be an astronaut,” Watkins told BET. “I was originally inspired by an after-school enrichment program at Judith Resnik Elementary.”
Here’s what we know about the future astronaut:
Watkins Is A Colorado Native
Watkins was born in Gaithersburg, Maryland but considers Lafayette, Colorado her hometown. Her parents, Michael and Carolyn Watkins, still reside there. She attended high school in Boulder, Colorado. Can you believe she’s only 29?
She’s Seriously Smart
They don’t just pick anyone to go into space. Watkins has the credentials to fly a rocket ship to Mars. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geological and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University and a Doctorate in Geology from the University of California., Los Angeles (UCLA).
She Has Worked With NASA Since Her Undergraduate Days
Watkins conducted research supporting the Phoenix Mars Lander mission and prototype Mars drill testing while she was still in undergrad. She also served as chief geologist for the NASA Spaceward Bound Crew 86 at the Mars Research Station in 2009. She most recently participated in the NASA Planetary Science Summer School at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
She Has Been Recognized For Her Research In Geology
Her list of awards and honors is nearly a mile long. She is the recipient of the 2015 Caltech Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences Chair’s Postdoctoral Fellowship, the 2015 California Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) Postdoctoral Fellowship and the NASA Group Achievement Award for Mars Science Laboratory Prime Mission Science and Operations Team.
She Is A Consummate Athlete
We all know that astronauts have to be fit. But Watkins does more than work out. She loves soccer, rock climbing and skiing. We can’t wait to see footage of her doing back flips in the air in her first space mission.