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Jessica Watkins, an entrepreneur and former attorney, will become the first African-American woman to join an international crew onboard the International Space Station.
“I am thrilled to be the first African-American woman to go into space,” Watkins told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta. “This milestone shows that it is possible, that you can be the first and the only, and that you can do what you want to do.”
Watkins was chosen as part of NASA’s astronaut class of 2016, and will join astronauts Jonny Kim and Megan McArthur of the European Space Agency and the Russian Federal Space Agency. The team was launched to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday.
She said she had always dreamed of flying in space, and the opportunity became a reality five years ago. She and her mother jumped for joy, and the astronaut posted a video on Twitter.
Watkins, who lives in New Mexico, took inspiration from astronaut and renowned physicist Stephen Hawking. She used his TED Talk as a guide to make her curriculum vitae, something she couldn’t have done without access to technology.
“I had to have all of the TED videos, TED Talks by (Astronaut) Neil Armstrong and astronauts who had been to space, [where] they gave really good examples of how they used technology to make their ascent,” she said.
“I was actually the first one in my class, at the college level, to go up on campus and show the video. And from that moment, every day, everybody in my classes was like, ‘Now we want to make videos.’”
Watkins’ team mates completed the launch, dock and undocking sequence with a smooth launch to orbit aboard the SpaceX Dragon capsule on Monday.