Meet NASA Astronaut & Artemis Team Member Jessica Watkins [Video]

NASA Astronaut Jessica Watkins

NASA Portrait of astronaut Jessica Watkins. Credit: NASA

NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins is a member of the Artemis Team, a select group of astronauts charged with focusing on the development and training efforts for early Artemis missions.

Jessica Watkins was selected by NASA to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class. Watkins reported for duty in August 2017 and completed two years of training as an Astronaut Candidate. The Colorado native earned a Bachelor of Science in Geological and Environmental Sciences from Stanford University, and a Doctorate in Geology from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Dr. Watkins conducted her graduate research on the emplacement mechanisms of large landslides on Mars and Earth. She has worked at NASA’s Ames Research Center and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and was a science team collaborator for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity.

As a graduate research fellow at UCLA, Watkins studied Mars surface processes, focusing her Ph.D. research on the emplacement mechanisms of large landslides on Mars and Earth through orbital image and spectral data analysis, geologic mapping, and field work. While at UCLA, she was also a teaching assistant for various courses in earth and planetary science. At the time of her selection in June 2017, Watkins was a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at the California Institute of Technology, where she collaborated as a member of the Science Team for the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity. Her work there included participation in daily planning of rover activities, testing of Mars rock physical properties using rover drill parameters, and multi-scale investigation of the geologic history of Gale crater, Mars. While at Caltech, Dr. Watkins also served as a volunteer assistant coach for the Caltech Women’s Basketball team.

During undergraduate internships at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Watkins conducted research on Mars soil simulant supporting the Phoenix Mars Lander mission. As a graduate student, Watkins participated in several internships at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), including analysis of near-earth asteroids discovered by the NEOWISE mission, tactical and strategic planning for the Curiosity mission, and system design testing for the Mars 2020 and Mars Sample Return missions. In addition, she served as chief geologist for a NASA analog mission at the Mars Desert Research Station in 2009 and as a science operations team member for a NASA Desert Research and Technology Studies analog mission in 2011. Dr. Watkins also served as an aquanaut crew member in the Aquarius underwater habitat for the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) 23 mission in 2019.

Watkins reported for duty in August 2017 and completed two years of training as an Astronaut Candidate. Her Astronaut Candidate training included scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in International Space Station systems, spacewalks, robotics, physiological training, T-38 flight training, water and wilderness survival training, geology training, and expeditionary skills training. She is currently awaiting flight assignment.

Through the Artemis program, NASA and a coalition of international partners will return to the Moon to learn how to live on other worlds for the benefit of all. With Artemis missions NASA will send the first woman and the next man to the Moon in 2024 and about once per year thereafter.

Through the efforts of humans and robots, we will explore more of the Moon than ever before; to lead a journey of discovery that benefits our planet with life-changing science, to use the Moon and its resources as a technology testbed to go even farther and to learn how to establish and sustain a human presence far beyond Earth.

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