I’m on a rocket to the ISS – here’s what it takes to become an astronaut

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SPACEX launched four astronauts to the space station for Nasa on Wednesday – firing one crew member into the history books.

It’s the first Nasa crew comprised equally of men and women, including the first Black woman making a long-term spaceflight, Jessica Watkins.

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Jessica Watkins is on board Nasa’s SpaceX Crew-4 missionCredit: Nasa
The crew lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday

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The crew lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on WednesdayCredit: Getty

The 33-year-old geologist from Colorado joined the astronaut corps in 2017 and this is her first trip into space.

She will spend six months on the International Space Station as part of Nasa’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission.

Speaking ahead of the launch, the space pioneer dished out a few golden nuggets of advice for future astronauts and space scientists.

“Find mentors who can help encourage and support you along the way,” she told UCLA newsroom earlier this month.

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“Don’t be afraid to take risks; they will certainly pay off.”

Watkins graduated from UCLA in 2015. She studied how rocks and soil on Earth can teach us about the geology of other planets.

Becoming an astronaut requires dedication and drive that starts from your years in education.

Watkins said she would encourage students to dive deeply into the subjects and pursuits that most excite them.

“Whatever it is that students are interested in or passionate about — whatever gets you out of bed in the morning — participate in that, study that, pursue it relentlessly,” she said.

“If you want to be an astronaut, keep pursuing your studies in STEM fields, but find what it is that you are best suited for.”

Watkins and her crewmates lifted off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

As a mission specialist, Watkins monitored the spacecraft during the flight’s launch.

She will serve as a flight engineer once the team arrives at the space station on Wednesday evening.

Jessica celebrated her inclusion in the crew as a milestone for diversity in the space industry.

She has become the fifth Black woman to go to space and will be the first to serve aboard the International Space Station.

Nearly 90 per cent of people who have been to space are white men.

“We have reached this milestone, this point in time, and the reason we’re able to arrive at this time is because of the legacy of those who have come before to allow for this moment,” Watkins said.

“Also, recognising this is a step in the direction of a very exciting future. So to be a part of that is certainly an honour.”

SpaceX has now launched five crews for NASA and two private trips in just under two years.

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Elon Musk’s company is having an especially busy few weeks: It just finished taking three businessmen to and from the space station as Nasa’s first private guests.

A week after the new crew arrives, the three Americans and German they’re replacing will return to Earth in their own SpaceX capsule. Three Russians also live at the space station.

The Crew-4 team is comprised of (from left to right) Nasa's Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren and Jessica Watkins; and ESA's Samantha Cristoforetti

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The Crew-4 team is comprised of (from left to right) Nasa’s Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren and Jessica Watkins; and ESA’s Samantha CristoforettiCredit: Alamy

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