*Dr. Sian Proctor is making history as we speak with her seat on SpaceX’s Inspiration4, currently in a three-day orbit around Planet Earth.
The a geoscientist, artist and science communicator, has been a trailblazer in the space sector for decades. Now, years after becoming a finalist in NASA’s astronaut candidate program in 2009, she has finally made it past Earth’s atmosphere with the launch of Inspiration4 Wednesday night.
The 51-year-old STEM sis is now the world’s first-ever Black female spacecraft pilot.
“I have this opportunity to not only accomplish my dream, but also inspire the next generation of women of color and girls of color,” Proctor said at a pre-flight press conference.
The mission itself is mind blowing, as the first all-civilian mission to launch to orbit. Proctor told reporters she is grateful to “have this opportunity” as the first Black woman to pilot a space jaunt.
“There have been three Black female astronauts that have made it to space, and knowing that I’m going to be the fourth means that I have this opportunity to not only accomplish my dream, but also inspire the next generation of women of color and girls of color and really get them to think about reaching for the stars and what that means,” she told reporters.
Proctor also shared how, as a Black woman, she’s had to deal with added pressures in her field.
“Growing up as a Black female and always trying to be a high achiever and not mess up,” Proctor added, “just having that pressure on yourself of thinking about not wanting to be eliminated, not wanting to miss out, [you have to] make sure you’re the best of the best, because you’re opening up the door for the people who follow you.”
“A lot of times, you know, if you’re in a position of a role model, if you slip or you mess up, then it means that you’re kind of shutting the door for those behind you,” she added.
Watch Proctor’s childhood dream literally take off as part of the SpaceX Inspiration4 crew – billionaire commerce executive Jared Isaacman, 29-year-old childhood cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux, and 42-year-old Chris Sembroski – aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule (dubbed Resilience) from Cape Canaveral, FL.
Proctor is preceded by only six other Black female astronauts in history, three of which have flown to space. The first-ever Black woman to fly to space was Mae Jemison, who flew on the space shuttle Endeavour with the STS-47 mission in 1992. Following her, Stephanie Wilson and Joan Higginbotham also flew with NASA shuttle missions.
There are three other Black women who are NASA astronauts but have never flown to space; they include Yvonne Cagle, Jessica Watkins and Jeanette Epps, who was selected by NASA in 2009 in the same astronaut-selection round as Proctor. Cagle works in NASA management currently, while Watkins was recently selected as part of NASA’s 22nd astronaut class.
Epps is slated to fly to space with Boeing’s Starliner astronaut taxi, once the company completes its first test flights of the new vehicle. In 2020, Epps was chosen to fly with Boeing’s Starliner-1 mission, the first operational mission for the craft that will take a crew of four to the International Space Station. The launch date for that mission is planned for sometime in 2022.