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Jessica Watkins isn’t yet officially an astronaut, but last week she was selected as one of NASA’s latest crop of candidates to take to space. Watkins, a native of Lafayette, Colorado, has dreamed of being an astronaut since she was a little girl, and is now one step closer to accomplishing that goal.

Watkins, 29, was born in Gaithersburg, Maryland and moved west when she was in 5th grade. The geologist graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s and UCLA with a doctorate. In an interview with SyFyWire’s Fangrrls, Watkins shared her goals of one day stepping foot on Mars.

“The word that comes to mind is certainly honored to be considered in that type of role. I would certainly love to be able to be a representative for the amazing people who have gotten me to this point, including family and friends, as well as colleagues, especially in the planetary geology field and represent what they have contributed to the field and helped me get here,” Watkins said.

Starting later this summer, Watkins and the 11 other candidates will begin a two-year training program to determine where they’ll be next. This latest crop is most certainly being groomed for the mission to the Red Planet, which Watkins has deep familiarity with already. She currently works in conjunction with the team manning the Mars Curiosity rover as it scans the geological makeup of the planet’s surface.

Watkins noted in her chat with Fanngrls that she hopes to serve as an inspiration to other young girls to enter STEM fields and that as a Black woman she helps to promote diversity. Of the seven men and five women selected, Watkins appears to be the only Black woman, although there are other people of color are in the new class.

PHOTO: NASA

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