What did Jessica Watkins do in space?

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Jessica Watkins is a self-described “rock nerd” with a doctorate in geology. So, before she boarded her maiden voyage to space as a member of NASA’s astronaut corps, she carried images of family and friends — and some pebbles.

Her journey made history. Watkins was only the fifth Black woman to journey into space and the first to join a space station expedition. She became an official crew member of the orbiting laboratory, which has hosted over 260 people in its nearly 23-year lifespan.

What did Jessica Watkins do in space?

Throughout their tenure on the space station, Watkins and her crewmates collaborated closely with Russian cosmonauts, a task that has grown in geopolitical importance as the Ukraine conflict has strained relations between the US and Russia.

Watkins was involved in hundreds of space station research initiatives, including a botany experiment aimed at cultivating novel crops in orbit. Watkins became well-known during her stay for developing a hamburger taco covered with macaroni and cheese, dubbed the “Wattyburger.”

Watkins grew up in Lafayette, Colorado, and attended Stanford University for her undergraduate studies. She initially studied mechanical engineering in the hopes that it would help her fulfill her astronaut goals.

However, when perusing Stanford’s course catalog, she discovered geology seminars about the quest for habitable planets that piqued her interest.

Watkins was a standout rugby player at Stanford. She scored the game-winning goal in Stanford’s 2008 national championship game as a sophomore. As a result, her grandma told CNN affiliate WESH that she first believed Watkins’ destiny was to be one of the top players in the game.

Watkins completed two years in basic astronaut training and another two years prepping for her mission to the International Space Station.