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Meet Jessica Watkins,The Only Black Woman In NASA’s Newest Astronaut Class

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BY SUSAN JOHNES

In 2013, NASA announced its first class of astronaut candidates, which included one woman with some serious black girl magic, Jessica Watkins.

Even though 18,300 applicants were interested in the position, only twelve candidates from various fields of study met some pretty rigorous requirements and made it to the top.

Watkins, a 29-year-old geologist from Lafayette, Colorado, was among the lucky twelve who told Blastr that she was excited about NASA’s efforts to diversify STEM.

“I’m extremely excited about the diversity on this team which contains an amazing group of people,” she stated. “I think that tells a lot about NASA and their goals towards creating a diverse workforce,” she added.

According to Watkins, she observed that diversity is that aspect which allows for experiences that may not be the same to bring different things to the table.

She added that “Diversity is about the idea of being able to face others who may not see people who look like them, for instance in STEM fields in general, and doing cool things like going to space.”

“I always knew that I wanted to be an astronaut,” Watkins stated. “After majoring in mechanical engineering at Stanford and admitting that wasn’t my passion, I shifted gears and started studying planetary geology.”

According to her profile in NASA, Watkins began working on the Mars Curiosity rover after completing her doctorate in geology at UCLA.

Meanwhile, the new class will begin their two-year training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston in August.
As the traditions, the candidates will learn a range of lessons while training including on the International Space Station systems, robotics training, space walks, the Russian language and flight training

The technical team of 12 members could send some of the candidates to participate in the Orion mission, which aims to send a team to Mars.

Of course, Watkins has a good chance of being chosen to be one of those to set foot on the planet because she worked on the Mars Curiosity rover.

Watkins is excited about contributing to NASA’s expansion of human presence in space. She told Blastr that she’s passionate about encouraging young girls to pursue a career in STEM. “My advice to girls who are interested in the field is to get a mentor, especially a female mentor, to help them. That is something that has pushed me to this point in my life,” she said.

“I’ve been grateful and lucky to have the mentorship support that I’ve received from a lot of my teachers, professors, and supervisors who helped with that idea of persistence,” Watkins stated.

In the History of NASA, black astronauts are few and far in between. But Watkins is a perfect representation of the five black women who’ve made their mark in History.

Read more details here.

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