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US astronaut Jessica Watkins sets sights on Moon… and Mars

NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins spoke to AFP from the International Space Station on August 1, 2022
NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins spoke to AFP from the International Space Station on August 1, 2022.

In the event that you had the decision, can you rather visit the Moon or Mars?

The question is completely theoretical for most people, but also for US astronaut Jessica Watkins, it hits a little differently.

“Whichever comes first!” Watkins says with fun, in an extended interview with AFP from her post on the International Space Station (ISS).

At 34, Watkins has a long time before her at the united states agency NASA, and may perfectly be among the first women to step foot on the Moon in the coming years, as an associate of the Artemis team finding your way through upcoming lunar missions.

Missions to Mars are off later on, but considering that astronauts often work to their 50s, Watkins could conceivably have a go.

In any event is merely fine, she says.

“I certainly will be just absolutely thrilled in order to become a part of your time and effort to visit another , whether the Moon or Mars.”

For the time being, Watkins’ first space flight was a brief history maker: she became the initial Black woman to attempt a long-term stick to the ISS, where she’s already spent 90 days as a mission specialist, with 90 days to go.

The Apollo missions that sent humans to the Moon were solely staffed by white men, and NASA has sought through the years to widen its recruitment to a far more diverse band of candidates.

The agency now really wants to put both women and folks of color on the Moon.

“I believe it is a significant milestone for the agency and the united states, and the planet aswell,” Watkins says. “Representation is essential. It really is true that it’s difficult to be everything you can’t see.”

The Maryland native added that she was “grateful for several of anyone who has come before me… the ladies and Black astronauts who’ve paved the best way to enable me to be here today.”

Geologist in mind

Born in Gaithersburg in the suburbs of Washington, Watkins was raised in Colorado before going to California to review geology at Stanford University.

During her doctoral studies at the University of California, LA, her research focused partly on Mars and she done NASA’s Curiosity rover, which just celebrated 10 years on the Red Planet.

Watkins still includes a soft spot for Mars. Actually, she’s published a study on earth during her stint on the ISS.

“I’d certainly call myself a geologist, a scientist, an astronaut,” she says.

Watkins remembers as soon as that she realized space and planetary geologythe composition of formation of celestial bodies such as for example planets, moons and asteroidswould be her life’s work.

It came during among her first geology classes, in a lecture about planetary accretion, or when solids gradually collide with one another to create larger bodies, and ultimately planets.

“I recall studying that process… and realizing then that that has been what I needed regarding the others of my entire life and what I needed to review,” she recalls.

“The idea of having the ability to be part of an attempt to really do at first glance of another planetary body is super exciting, and I anticipate being a section of it.”

The Artemis program, a successor to Apollo, is targeted at slowly establishing a lasting human presence on the Moon. The finish goal would be to create a base that might be a forward operating station for just about any eventual trips to Mars.

The initial uncrewed mission beneath the Artemis banner is defined to remove for the Moon by the end of August.

Watkins is among 18 astronauts assigned to the Artemis team, to either provide ground support or eventually fly.

Officially, every active NASA astronaut (you can find currently 42) includes a possiblity to be selected to be a part of a lunar landing.

‘Push the limits’

While previous mission experience may weigh heavily in NASA’s selections for personnel for the initial crewed Artemis flight, Watkins’s academic background certainly should boost her likelihood of being chosen.

Being good-natured and having a wholesome team spirit may also be key for space flight teams, who spend extended periods of time confined in small spaces.

Watkins says her colleagues would call her “easygoing,” and her time playing rugby taught her the worthiness of focusing on a team.

Just how does she define as an astronaut?

“All of people have that sense of exploration and a need to continue steadily to push the limits of what humans can handle. And I believe that is a thing that unites us,” she says.

Watkins says she imagined likely to space when she was young, and always kept it in the rear of her mindwithout ever thinking it may be possible.

“Avoid being afraid to dream big,” she says. “You may never know whenever your dreams should come true.”

2022 AFP

Citation: US astronaut Jessica Watkins sets sights on Moon… and Mars (2022, August 13) retrieved 13 August 2022 from

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