Jessica Watkins

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Jessica Watkins
Watkins in 2019
Jessica Andrea Watkins

(1988-05-14) May 14, 1988 (age 36)
EducationStanford University (BS)
University of California, Los Angeles (MS, PhD)
Space career
NASA astronaut
Time in space
170d 13h 3m
SelectionNASA Group 22 (2017)
MissionsSpaceX Crew-4 (Expedition 67/68)
Mission insignia
Scientific career
ThesisTectonic and Aqueous Processes in the Formation of Mass-Wasting Features on Mars and Earth (2015)
Doctoral advisorAn Yin

Jessica Andrea Watkins (born May 14, 1988) is an American NASA astronaut, geologist, aquanaut and former international rugby player. Watkins was announced as the first Black woman who completed an International Space Station long-term mission in April 2022. On June 9, 2022, at 7:38 UTC, she became the African American woman with the most time in space, surpassing Stephanie Wilson's 42 day, 23 hour and 46 minute record.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Jessica "Watty"[2] Watkins was born on May 14, 1988, in Gaithersburg, Maryland, to Michael and Carolyn Watkins.[3][4] Her family moved to Lafayette, Colorado, where she graduated from Fairview High School. She earned a bachelor's degree in geological and environmental sciences at Stanford University where she was a member of the rugby team.[5]

After Stanford, Watkins earned a Ph.D. in geology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her graduate research, under the supervision of professor An Yin, focused on emplacement mechanisms for landslides on Mars and Earth, including the effect of water activity.[6] Prior to her selection as an astronaut candidate, Watkins was a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology, where she was also an assistant coach to the women's basketball team.[3][7][8]

Rugby career[edit]

Watkins began playing rugby during her freshman year at Stanford and remained on the team for four years. In 2008, during her sophomore year, she was a member of the Division I national champion team.[5] In both 2008 and 2010, Watkins became a member of First Team Collegiate Rugby All-American.[8] She is a former American women's national team rugby player for the sevens, and played for the USA Eagles in its 3rd-place finish at the 2009 Rugby World Cup Sevens. During the World Cup she was the leading try scorer for the US team.[8][5]

NASA career[edit]

Watkins as a NASA astronaut candidate in June 2017

As an undergraduate, Watkins worked at the Ames Research Center to support the Mars Phoenix lander and prototype Mars drill testing. In 2009, she was chief geologist for the NASA Spaceward Bound Crew 86 at the Mars Desert Research Station.[9] As a graduate student, she worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the NEOWISE project to survey near-Earth asteroids. Watkins also worked on planning for the Mars rover Curiosity.[9] In 2011, Watkins served as a science operations team member for an analog mission.[9]

She has served as a planner for the Mars 2020 rover and a Mars sample-return mission, and was a science team member for a Desert Research and Technology Studies analog mission.[3] As a postdoctoral fellow at Caltech, and as a collaborator on the Mars Science Laboratory Science Team, she participated in daily planning of the Mars rover activities and uses its image data combined with orbital data to investigate the stratigraphy, geology, and geomorphology of Mars.[10]

In June 2017, Watkins was selected as a member of NASA Astronaut Group 22 and began her two-year training in August.[3][11] In December 2020, she was selected to be a part of the Artemis Team to return humans to the Moon.[12] The year 2025 is the target date for the crewed lunar landing mission.[13] In November 2021, she became the 4th astronaut of Group 22, and first Black woman, to be assigned a long-duration mission to the International Space Station (ISS) after being chosen as the final member of SpaceX Crew-4, which launched in April 2022.[1][14][15]

It is Watkins’ first time in space. She is serving as a mission specialist for the six-month mission.[1] Her role involves observing and photographing geological changes on Earth, as well as other investigations into Earth and space science, biological science, and the effects of long-duration spaceflight on humans.[16]

NEEMO 23[edit]

Watkins participated in NEEMO mission 23 from June 10 to 22, 2019.[17] This mission tested technologies and objectives for deep space mission and lunar explorations on the seafloor. Watkins’ NEEMO mission was the first of its kind to feature an all-female research team led by Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.[17][18]

Personal life[edit]

Watkins' parents live in Lafayette, Colorado. She has one sister. Her hobbies include soccer, rock climbing, skiing, and creative writing.[3]

Awards and honors[edit]

Watkins has received numerous awards for her career, academic, and athletic accomplishments, including:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Gamillo, Elizabeth. "NASA Astronaut Jessica Watkins Becomes the First Black Woman to Join International Space Station Crew". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
  2. ^ Astronaut slated to become first Black woman to stay long-term on space station, by Richard Tribou; published April 18, 2022; retrieved July 27, 2022
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Tonnessen, Heather (June 2, 2020). "Astronaut Jessica Watkins". NASA. Retrieved February 8, 2022.
  4. ^ "Jessica Andrea Watkins". Biographies of U.S. Astronauts. Spacefacts. April 19, 2018. Retrieved September 20, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Eymer, Rick (May 3, 2008). "Stanford women win national rugby club championship". Palo Alto Online. Retrieved September 20, 2018.
  6. ^ Watkins, Jessica (2015). Tectonic and Aqueous Processes in the Formation of Mass-wasting Features on Mars and Earth (PhD). UCLA.
  7. ^ Watkins, Jessica A.; Ehlmann, Bethany L.; Yin, An (February 1, 2015). "Long-runout landslides and the long-lasting effects of early water activity on Mars". Geology. 43 (2): 107–110. Bibcode:2015Geo....43..107W. doi:10.1130/G36215.1. ISSN 0091-7613.
  8. ^ a b c "Jessica Watkins profile". Caltech Beavers. Archived from the original on November 13, 2017. Retrieved June 10, 2017.
  9. ^ a b c "NASA Astronaut Jessica Watkins to become first Black woman on the International Space Station". Newsweek. November 17, 2021. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
  10. ^ Watkins, Jessica Andrea (2015). Tectonic and Aqueous Processes in the Formation of Mass-wasting Features on Mars and Earth (Thesis).
  11. ^ Harwood, William (June 7, 2017). "NASA introduces 12 new astronauts". CBS News. CBS Broadcasting. Retrieved June 8, 2017.
  12. ^ "NASA The Artemis Team". NASA. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  13. ^ Foust, Jeff (November 9, 2021). "NASA delays human lunar landing to at least 2025". SpaceNews. Retrieved November 9, 2021.
  14. ^ "NASA Assigns Astronaut Jessica Watkins to NASA's SpaceX Crew-4 Mission". NASA. November 16, 2021. Retrieved November 16, 2021.
  15. ^ Roulette, Joey (November 17, 2021). "NASA Astronaut to Be First Black Woman to Join Space Station Crew". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
  16. ^ Torchinsky, Rina (January 31, 2022). "Jessica Watkins is getting ready to be the first Black woman to spend months in space". NPR. Retrieved February 8, 2022.
  17. ^ a b Emily Toomey (July 29, 2019). "NASA Scientists and Astronauts Practice for Space Missions on the Seafloor". Smithsonian magazine.
  18. ^ Bergin, Chris (June 10, 2019). "Cristoforetti leading NEEMO 23 underwater expedition for deep space training". Retrieved December 13, 2021.
  19. ^ "2022 Proclamation / Declaring April 19, 2022 to be Astronaut Jessica Watkins Day in Lafayette". City of Lafayette City Council Proclamation. April 19, 2022. Retrieved April 19, 2022.
  20. ^ "Stanford Earth Alumni Awards". Stanford University. Retrieved February 7, 2022.
  21. ^ "2011 GSA Research Grant Recipients" (PDF). The Geological Society of America. July 2011. Retrieved February 7, 2022.