BREVARD, Fla. — The first Black woman to live and work at the International Space Station will join a SpaceX crew mission after April 2022, marking her first flight into space.
NASA said Jessica Watkins, 33, was assigned to the fourth and final seat on Crew Dragon for SpaceX's Crew-4 mission.
The selection also means Watkins will become the first Black woman to join an ISS crew for scientific research, station maintenance, training, and more over a six-month period. Victor Glover, part of SpaceX's Crew-2 mission that launched in November 2020, became the first Black astronaut to join a station crew.
Black astronauts did visit the ISS during the space shuttle program that ran until 2011, but their stays were comparatively brief and did not include full-on expeditions lasting several months. A total of 248 people have visited the now 21-year-old ISS; seven of them have been Black.
In 1983, Guion Bluford became the first Black astronaut to travel to space. Mae Jemison followed nine years later and became the first Black woman to do the same.
Watkins will fly as a mission specialist with three other colleagues: NASA's Robert Hines and Kjell Lindgren; and Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency. She considers Lafayette, Colorado, her hometown and was a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology before her astronaut selection in 2017.
Separately, NASA last year announced Watkins had also been chosen for the prestigious Artemis program, which aims to put astronauts back on the lunar surface no earlier than 2025. Exact roles and mission assignments have not yet been released.
Jeanette Epps was originally chosen to be the first Black woman to join an ISS crew in 2018, but NASA reassigned her seat to another astronaut for reasons that were never made clear. She would have launched to the ISS on a Russian Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan.
Follow Emre Kelly on Twitter: @EmreKelly.
This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Jessica Watkins first Black woman to join International Space Station