The universe is about to experience Black Girl Magic in all its glory.
NASA announced its first class of extraordinary astronaut candidates this past Wednesday. The first time since 2013.
Amongst them is one incredibly gifted black woman: Jessica Watkins.
The twelve candidates come from various different backgrounds. As you would expect from NASA there are some pretty rigorous requirements before you take to the friendly skies.
Our girl Jessica made it to the top of the pool of 18,300 applicants. This is a record number of applicants for NASA. There previous record was 8,000 set in 1978.
Watkins, a 29-year-old geologist from Lafayette, Colorado, told Blastr that she’s excited about NASA’s efforts to implement diversity.
“I’m very excited about the diversity on this team, this amazing group of people. I think that says a lot about NASA and their goals towards creating a diverse workforce,” she said.
“I think the thing about diversity is that it allows for experiences that may not be exactly the same to bring different things to the table.”
“And then the other side of that… is the idea of being able to be a face to others who may not see people who look like them in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields in general, and doing cool things like going to space.”
Watkins says she always knew that she wanted to be an astronaut. After majoring in mechanical engineering at Stanford she decided to change and started studying planetary geology.
After completing her doctorate in geology at UCLA, Watkins began working on the Mars Curiosity rover, according to NASA.
The new class of NASA candidates will begin their two-year training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston in August.
Jessica and her classmates will learn a range of lessons, including the International Space Station systems, robotics training, space walks, the Russian language and flight training.
Some of the highly intelligent candidates could participate in the Orion mission, which aims to send men and women to Mars.
As Jessica has worked on the Mars Curiosity rover, she has a good chance of being one of those to set foot on the red planet.
She told the Lafayette News that she’s “excited about contributing to” NASA’s expansion of human presence in space.”
Jessica is also passionate about encouraging young girls to pursue a career in STEM.
She advises teen girls who are interested in space to get a mentor, especially a female mentor, to help them.
“That is something that has really pushed me to this point in my life,” Jessica said. “I’ve been really grateful and lucky to have the mentorship support that I’ve received from a lot of my teachers and professors and supervisors.
“That’s been something that’s really important for me, and I think help with that idea of persistence, having a mentor who can continue to push you and encourage you in a STEM field is really helpful.”
There have only been five black women who’ve made it into space. Mae Jemison, Yvonne Darlene Cagle, Stephanie D. Wilson, Joan E. Higginbotham and, more recently, Jeanette J. Epps.