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one giant leap

SpaceX launches crew with 1st Black woman going on long-term ISS mission

SpaceX just sent four astronauts to the International Space Station, and one of them is making history.

The rocket company on Tuesday launched a crew of NASA astronauts, including Jessica Watkins, who is becoming the first Black woman to make a long-term spaceflight, The Associated Press reports

The Crew-4 astronauts will spend several months at the space station and "carry out research investigations that will help NASA prepare for longer duration stays on the Moon — and eventually Mars," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said. The crew also consists of mission commander Kjell Lindgren, pilot Bob Hines, and mission specialist Samantha Cristoforetti. 

"This is certainly an important milestone I think both for our agency and for the country," Watkins said at a press conference, per CNN. "I think it really is just a tribute to the legacy of the Black women astronauts that have come before me as well as to the exciting future ahead."

Including Watkins, only five Black women have gone to space, NPR reports. But according to AP, none has stayed there for a lengthy mission before Watkins. NASA space operations mission chief Kathy Lueders told AP this was "one of the most diversified, I think, crews that we've had in a really, really long time." 

This marked SpaceX's fifth flight with NASA astronauts, and it comes after Axiom Space and SpaceX earlier this month launched the first all-civilian crew to the International Space Station.