One of our very own California Space Grant Consortium alumna, Jessica Watkins, was recently selected to be part of NASA’s initial 18-member team of astronauts – nine men and nine women – for the upcoming Artemis missions to the moon. She was chosen by Vice President Mike Pence to begin training for the return to the moon and explore living on the lunar surface by 2024.
Jessica Watkins was born in Maryland, raised in Colorado and went on to earn her undergraduate degree at Stanford University in Geological and Environmental Sciences. She then pursued her graduate degree in Geology at the University of California, Los Angeles and was a California Space Grant Consortium (CaSGC) fellow in 2010. Her graduate research focused on Mars soil simulant and she had several internships with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL).
“Years ago when Jessica Watkins applied to UCLA for graduate school we were thrilled as she already had shown what a great student she was in her undergraduate institution that to this day has her picture on their walls”, recalls Christopher Russell, Distinguished Professor at the Department of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences, and Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We were happy to make her a UCLA Space Grant scholar. And we are proud of her achievements at UCLA which served as a stepping stone to her entering the Astronaut corps and being selected for the lunar program. Her former classmates know that she has further ambitions. She also has her eyes on Mars. We wish her well in all her aspirations and are extremely proud of her and her achievements.”
The Artemis program is a collaborative effort between NASA and international partners to establish a long term presence on the moon. This lunar base could potentially act as a launching point for further space exploration by mankind. There is also the goal to have the first woman land on the moon.
The California Space Grant Consortium supports the exploration of space research spanning from pre-college engagement to workforce training. We are excited for Jessica Watkin’s role in this endeavor and proud to have been a small part of her past research experience.