HOUSTON (KIAH) — For any astronaut, the first time in outer space, must be an incredible experience. They also make history. But it’s very rare to make history for several reason on that flight, all at the same time.
NASA officials announced this week, it has assigned Astronaut Watkins to serve as a mission specialist, on the agency’s upcoming SpaceX Crew-4 mission now scheduled for April of 2022. This will be the fourth crew rotation flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station.
This will be Watkins’ first trip to space following her selection as an astronaut in 2017. Watkins joins NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Robert Hines, as well as ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, as a crew member for the Crew-4 mission.
NASA previously announced the assignments of Lindgren and Hines as spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively, in February, and ESA announced Cristoforetti as a mission specialist for the mission in May. Crew-4 is scheduled to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, next year, for a six-month science mission aboard the micro-gravity laboratory.
Watkins was born in Gaithersburg, Md., but considers Lafayette, Colo., her hometown. She earned a bachelor’s degree in geological and environmental sciences from Stanford University and a doctorate in geology from UCLA.
Dr. Watkins conducted her graduate research on the emplacement mechanisms of large landslides on Mars and Earth. She began her career at NASA as an intern and has worked at the agency’s Ames Research Center in California and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. At the time of her astronaut selection, Watkins was a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at the California Institute of Technology, where she collaborated as a member of the Science Team for the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity.
For more than 21 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station in low-Earth Orbit, advancing scientific knowledge, demonstrating new technologies, and making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. Through the Commercial Crew Program and broader commercial efforts, NASA is working with private industry to develop human space transportation services and a robust low-Earth orbit economy that enables the agency to focus on building spacecraft and rockets for deep space missions to the Moon and Mars.