Jessica Watkins is scheduled for an April 2022 Space trip that will make her the first African American woman to work on the International Space Station, according to NASA. The agency said that she would be accompanied on her trip by fellow NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Robert Hines, as well as Samantha Cristoforetti, an Italian astronaut with the European Space Agency.

NASA said that the crew would carry out a six-month assignment in the station's microgravity laboratory. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket would depart with the crew from the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida, agency said.

Before obtaining her doctorate in geology from the University of California, Watkins had studied geological and environmental sciences at Stanford University. A native of Maryland, she had grown up in Lafayette, Colorado, and still considered that city home. Watkins had been one of the first to complete NASA's astronaut training since the launch of the Artemis program intended to put the first woman on the moon before the end of this decade,.

The New York Times quoted Watkins as saying she wanted young girls of color to view her as "an example of ways that they can participate and succeed." The paper noted that, of the 249 people to have been present on the International Space Station, a mere seven had been African Americans.

Work on the Mars rover Curiosity

Watkins had been part of the science team responsible for the Mars rover Curiosity at the time of her selection as an astronaut. While working on her doctorate, she had carried out a study of landslides on Mars.

Artemis to send woman to moon

In April, then-NASA Acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk said the agency's Artemis program aimed to take the first woman and person of color to the moon.

During his presidency, Donald Trump had announced that the first Artemis landing on the moon would be in 2024. Trump's successor, President Joe Biden, of the Democratic Party, had opted to continue the program.

On November 9, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Trump's 2024 deadline was not realistic, and a lunar landing would happen “no earlier than 2025.”

First Black female astronaut went into space in 1992

Mae Jemison had become the first African American woman to go into space in 1992.

Last year, Victor Glover had become the first African American NASA astronaut to carry out a long-duration assignment on the International Space Station. Six other Black astronauts had gone to the station as part of space shuttle crews which had spent about 12 days there.