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This Mars-Studying Scientist May Be the First Woman to Walk on the Moon

Jessica Watkins is excited for humans to get to work on the lunar surface.

NASA plans to go back to the moon, but unlike the Apollo missions of a half-century ago, the agency's Artemis program is designed to send humans on longer-duration journeys, to land at the lunar south pole, and potentially even to build and populate a base there. The first crewed landing could take place as early as the mid-2020s. Last December the space agency announced the 18 astronauts who are working to make Artemis a reality; Jessica Watkins, who joined the astronaut corps in 2017, is among them. As a planetary geologist and a former member of the science team for NASA's Mars Curiosity rover, Watkins is a leading candidate for future lunar missions and could become the first woman and first person of color to walk on the moon.

In an interview with Scientific American Watkins was asked, why the diversity of Artemis's astronauts is so important?

“It's important that the Artemis team be diverse, first of all, because a diverse team is a strong team. The astronaut corps (as well as all of NASA) is made up of people with diverse skill sets, strengths, backgrounds and experiences—and relying on each of those individuals' expertise will enable the collective success of the Artemis missions. The whole truly is greater than the sum of its parts. It's also important because representation does matter. It was absolutely beneficial to me as a young girl to have role models to look up to who looked like me and for them to go before me and create a path for me to pursue my dreams. I hope that the Artemis team can do that for the next generation of explorers and inspire them to follow their dreams as well,” Watkins said.