Astronaut and geology professor Dr. Sian Proctor wrote her name in the history books on Wednesday when she became the first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft.
The 51-year-old will spend three days orbiting the earth alongside three other crew members. Known as the Inspiration4, the crew blasted off into space in a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, Daily Mail reported. Billionaire businessman and crew member Jared Isaacman chartered the flight.
Besides her history-making feat, Proctor is also the fourth Black woman to travel to space. “I’m really grateful to be here and to have this opportunity,” she said at a news conference on September 14, Space.com reported.
“There have been three Black female astronauts that have made it to space, and knowing that I’m going to be the fourth means that I have this opportunity to not only accomplish my dream, but also inspire the next generation of women of color and girls of color and really get them to think about reaching for the stars and what that means.”
Proctor made the cut for the mission after she was shortlisted in an online business competition that was organized by Isaacman’s company. And the aim behind the space mission is to raise $200 million for the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
“I am the mission pilot and it’s really special for me to hold that title because I’m going to be the first black female pilot of a spacecraft,” Proctor said in another interview prior to leaving earth.
“Space to inspire has always been my motto as a teacher. When I was talking to my students, the thing about it was when I said space to inspire, they’re thinking outer space, but really it is this space, your space,” she continued.
“We all have this unique space that we carry with us everywhere we go and getting to know what it is that makes us passionate and how to share our unique gifts with the world is so important.
“I have memories of the Challenger and Christa McAuliffe and what that means to me [is] her legacy as being the first teacher in space to me being now this educator going to space,” she added. McAuliffe, a former astronaut and teacher, passed away alongside six other crew members in 1986 after their space shuttle exploded shortly after lift off.
Though Proctor was dropped as a candidate during the astronaut group’s selection process in 2009, she did not let that deter her as she trained to become an analog astronaut, Daily Mail reported. Throughout her career, she has contributed immensely towards the development of human spaceflight on earth.
Prior to finally flying to space, Proctor participated in several moon and Mars simulations. And she credits that for helping her prepare for her recent space mission – which eventually wasn’t a simulation.