On Wednesday, NASA announced that Jessica Watkins has been chosen for their newest class of astronauts—their first class since 2013.
The Stanford and UCLA grad was one out of 12 people chosen out of a record 18,300 people, the most applicants they have ever had. She is also one out of five women chosen.
In a recent interview with Blastr the 29-year-old geologist from Lafayette, Colorado, said that she always wanted to be an astronaut.
“I grew up always knowing that I wanted to be an astronaut. It was always the dream and the goal, and so when I went to college at Stanford, I actually came in as a mechanical engineering major because I thought that was what was necessary in order to reach that goal. And the first year and a half or so of classes as a mechanical engineer, I just didn’t love it. I didn’t have a passion for it and it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. And so I kind of changed paths, really, and found geology as a means of studying space.”
She’s also very eager to start training this August.
“It’ll be super diverse—there’s a wide range of skills that we’ll be learning. It’ll be kind of like drinking from a fire hose! We’ll be learning about the International Space Station systems, there’ll be robotics training, space walks in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, learning the Russian language, and flight training. It’ll be so cool to have people with different expertise in each of those areas and have us all learn from each other, so I’m really looking forward to that process.”
She also sharedd advice for young women and girls interested in getting into STEM programs.
“I think that part of the issue of getting women interested in STEM comes on an exposure level, and I think that that’s improving, and certainly we’ve seen a lot of improvement in recent years. I think that it starts pretty early in girls’ development when they are young and in school, giving positive exposure to science and engineering and math, goes a really long way. So things like after school programs, summer camps, those types of activities, have had a really large impact on me and I think have served young girls really well and get them interested in STEM early.”
Watkins is also well-versed in working on the Mars Curiosity rover and is “honored” that she could possibly be one of the first people to step foot on that planet.
“I would certainly love to be able to be a representative for the amazing people who have gotten me to this point, including family and friends, as well as colleagues, especially in the planetary geology field and represent what they have contributed to the field and helped me get here. It certainly is a little bit overwhelming but I’m excited about the opportunity.”