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Sian Proctor, first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft, opens up about her journey

Black Women in Science

Sian Proctor, first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft, opens up about her journey


The SpaceX astronaut speaks candidly about her life-long pursuit of spaceflight, the joys and challenges of being in orbit, and her hopes for a more equitable future.

Sian Proctor doesn’t give up—it was just a matter of time before she achieved her goal of flying into orbit. Bitten by the spaceflight bug at an early age, the 51-year-old geoscientist, artist, and airplane pilot recently became the first Black woman in history to pilot a spacecraft.

Proctor’s dad had helped guide the Apollo missions in orbit from NASA’s tracking station on Guam—earning a personal thank-you from Neil Armstrong and a house full of NASA memorabilia. Like Armstrong, Proctor wanted to be an astronaut. So she earned a Ph.D. as well as her pilot’s license and SCUBA certification, skills common among astronaut candidates.

In 2009, Proctor made it to the final round of NASA’s competitive astronaut selection process. But when NASA rejected her candidacy, it seemed her dreams of visiting space might not come true. Instead she…

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I am a future butterfly at the stage of growth when I am turning into an adult. I am enclosed in a hard case shell formed by love, family, and friends. It is the hardest stage of becoming a black butterfly. You will encounter many hardships only to come out stronger and better than what you went in. At this stage, you are finding out who you truly are and how to love yourself.

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