Historic mission to space station will include first black female astronaut

A mission to the International Space Station will make history as the first ever black female astronaut goes in to orbit.

Jessica Watkins will join the crew and live aboard the ISS from next April.

The Maryland-native will spend spend six months there as a mission specialist in what will be her first mission in space.

The crew, known as Crew 4, will be the fourth group of astronauts on the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft mission to the ISS.

She hopes her trip to space will provide inspiration for others in the black community.

Jessica said: “I do hope that all young girls, especially young girls of colour that are interested in exploring space, feel empowered to do so.

“I just hope young girls across the country feel that way now.”

The other three crew members on the mission include NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Robert Hines, as well as the European Space Agency's Samantha Cristoforetti.

They will start their mission from NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, and will be stationed in the ISS's microgravity laboratory conducting scientific research, NASA said.

Jessica has experience of working in astronomy-based labs, as she spent time working with the science team for the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity, while also gaining a postdoctoral fellow at the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at the California Institute of Technology.

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Colleagues took to Twitter to congratulate the astronaut, including the head of NASA's human spaceflight program, Kathy Lueders.

She tweeted: “"Congrats to @NASA_Astronauts' Jessica Watkins! She's been chosen to join @astro_kjell, @Astro_FarmerBob, and @esa's @AstroSamantha on the upcoming @SpaceX Crew-4 mission, the fourth crew rotation flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the @Space_Station.”

And NASA astronaut Jonny Kim tweeted: “More Turtles in space! Congrats to my friend and teammate, Jessica Watkins. She's going to be an amazing crewmate for @SpaceX Crew-4."

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