In 2006, Massachusetts native Stephanie Wilson made history when she became the second African American woman to go into space as part of the crew of Space Shuttle Discovery on the 13-day flight.
In just a few years, she could be poised to make history again.
“The view from space is spectacular, it can be very peaceful, very serene. The colors are so vivid,” Wilson said.
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NASA’s international spaceflight mission the Artemis program aims to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024.
Boston-born and Pittsfield-raised NASA Astronaut, Wilson is one of 18 astronauts in the program and she could become the first woman to walk on the moon.
“It appears to us to be one unified planet and having that perspective of one earth and when humanity is one that we definitely appreciate having from space,” said Wilson.
Artemis, which is named for the Greek goddess of the Moon and the twin sister of the Greek god, Apollo, also aims to send astronauts to Mars. Wilson could be one of them as well.
Both Wilson’s physical roots and the roots of her space exploration ambitions lie in Massachusetts.
“I had a great curiosity for what’s unknown and I like to solve problems,” Wilson said.
Wilson first dreamed of boldly going “where no one has gone before” while attending Crosby Junior High School in Pittsfield.
As a class assignment, she interviewed Williams College Astronomy professor Jay Pasachoff and was bitten by the space bug.
“So glad and proud to have played whatever small part I had,” Pasachoff said.
Professor Pasachoff has remained close with Stephanie’s family and attended her previous space launches.
“She was up in that rocket that went up and just the idea that we actually knew somebody in that rocket was fabulous,” said Pasachoff.
“My greatest hope is that if she wants to walk on the moon that she walks on the moon because she deserves it,” said Harvard Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry James Anderson.
Before graduating from Harvard University in 1988 with an engineering science degree, Stephanie worked as a research assistant for Anderson.
“Her talent in research and in the union of Science and engineering was truly remarkable,” he said.
Wilson eventually earned a master of science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin before being selected by NASA as an astronaut in 1996.
She’s a veteran of 3 spaceflights - 2006, 2007 and 2010 - and has logged more than 42 hours in space.
There’s one more mission Wilson hopes to accomplish.
“I do my best to pass along the experience and the knowledge that I have gained to others in the office and the next generation so that we can have a better future for all of humanity, Wilson said.
Science and service genes run in Wilson’s family.
According to his obituary, Stephanie’s father, the late Eugene Wilson, was a Navy veteran and electrical engineer who worked for The Raytheon company as well as The General Electric Company in Pittsfield, which later became Lockheed Martin Defense Systems.