Sian Proctor, first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft

Dr. Sian Proctor (photo courtesy of Inspiration4).

After three days orbiting Earth, on September 18, Dragon and the Inspiration4 crew, the world’s first civilian mission to orbit, safely splashed down off the coast of Florida, completing their first multi-day low Earth orbit mission.

On board was geoscientist, Dr. Sian Proctor, who became the 4th Black woman in space, and the first to pilot a spacecraft.

The 20-year South Mountain Community College professor was joined by three crew mates aboard the first ever all-civilian spaceflight.

“We are writing the narrative of human spaceflight right now, as we go to the moon, and we go on to Mars,” said Dr. Proctor prior to her mission. “What do we want that to look like? How do we make space really for everyone? Bring all of humanity along? Inspiration 4 is the perfect example.

“When I talk about space to inspire a lot of times, people think I’m talking about outer space, but no, I’m talking about your space, your unique space to inspire those within your reach and beyond.”

Born in Guam almost nine months after Apollo 11 while her father was working at the NASA tracking station there, she was a finalist for NASA’s astronaut program in 2009.

Proctor is also an avid analog astronaut, which means she conducts activities in simulated space conditions. For example, she participated in the all-female Sensoria Mars 2020 mission and a four-month Mars mission to study food strategies for long spaceflights. Both took place at the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) Habitat on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano.

An advocate for STEM and the arts, Proctor says she seeks to expand justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, or J.E.D.I., in space.

“We are opening up the door so people who normally wouldn’t think that space and space exploration is part of their narrative can now believe that it is,” Proctor said.

The crew’s biological data is being analyzed by the team that led NASA’s twin study involving Sen. Mark Kelly and his brother Scott.

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