Jessica Watkins made history Wednesday by becoming the first black woman to be launched into space for an extended mission to the International Space Station.

Jessica WatkinsWatkins, 33, and three other astronauts flew into space at 3:52 p.m. EDT from the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida.

"I think this is really just a tribute to the legacy of black female astronauts who came before me and the exciting future," Watkins said in an interview with NPR. Last November, NASA announced that Watkins would be the fourth and final Crew Dragon for SpaceX's Crew 4 mission.

The assignment means she will be the first black woman in six months to join the ISS crew for research, station maintenance, training, and more. Previously, Victor Glover, part of SpaceX's Crew 2 mission that launched in November 2020, became the first black astronaut to join the station's crew. Of the 248 astronauts who visited the ISS, only seven were black and none were involved in the multi-month expedition.

In 1983, Guyon Blueford became the first black astronaut to go into space. May Jamison followed nine years later, becoming the first black woman to do the same.
NASA also announced last year that Watkins had been selected for the Artemis program, which aims to bring astronauts back to the moon by 2025 at the latest.

Wednesday's flight sent NASA's Bob Hines, Kel Lindgren and Samantha Christophoretti of the European Space Agency into orbit. They are scheduled to dock with the ISS at 20:15. EDT if the schedule is tight.

“Growing up, it was important for me to have role models in the roles I aspire to be and contribute in the ways I aspire to be,” Watkins told NPR. "To the best of my ability, I am honored and grateful for the opportunity to return the favor."