Dr. Sian Proctor Becomes First Black Woman To Pilot A Spacecraft

Dr. Sian Proctor

The race to space is an endless tussle led by nations like America, Russia, and other European nations. In all of it, we hear of the first man to get to space, the first man to land on the moon, the first man to do this, and that. Even though these people represent entire countries or even continents, you might want to ask where the women are. Hold on, we are about to answer that.

Dr. Sian Hayley Proctor is the first female black pilot of a spacecraft. She made this remarkable achievement on September 15, 2021, aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule. Piloting a crew of three other astronauts on the Inspiration4 mission program, she also became the fourth black woman that has ever been to space after Dr. Mae Jemison, Stephanie Wilson, and Joan Higginbotham.

Proctor’s spacecraft role came from an unlikely combination of factors. First, her father was a NASA engineer at the Guam Remote Ground Terminal during the days of the first lunar landings.

She has also had the considerable experience herself. She spent time at NASA as an analog astronaut. There, she played a crucial role in food investigations to support long-duration spaceflights for the Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (Hi-SEAS).

Dr. Sian Proctor during flight training before her trip to space
Dr. Sian Proctor during flight training (Source: New York Times)

Proctor had earlier attempted to work as an actual astronaut but was met with multiple rejections. Sadly, she still hasn’t gotten any luck with that. So how is she the pilot of a launched spacecraft? An opportunity came when Jared Isaacman who owns the payment processing company known as Shift4 Payment started a space-related entrepreneurship contest.

51-year old Proctor won the contest by creating an online store she calls Space2inspire. The store sells her personal collection of very unique space art and poetry. This win earned her the “prosperity” seat on the spacecraft.

Dr. Sian Proctor and her Crew Dragon spacecraft crew
Dr. Sian Proctor and her Crew Dragon spacecraft crew (Image Source: Listwand)

Isaacman picked the diverse crew and owns the “leadership” seat for also being the sole sponsor of the trip. Another crew member, Ms. Hayley Arceneaux, was selected for the “hope” seat. She is a health worker and a cancer survivor with a prosthetic leg. The last crew of the Inspiration4 mission trip was Mr. Sembroski. He earned the “generosity” seat for raising money through a raffle for a children’s hospital.

Dr. Sian Proctor’s Life Before The Space Trip

The first black woman to pilot a spacecraft, Dr. Sian Proctor, floating in the Crew Dragon capsule
The first black woman to pilot a spacecraft, Dr. Sian Proctor, floating in the Crew Dragon capsule (Image Source: Listwand)

Before the space trip that turned Proctor into a pilot, she was simply a Black community college professor. She was born in Hagåtña, Guam. Subsequently, her family moved to Minnesota. When she was 14, she relocated again to Fairport, New York.

Proctor attended Edinboro University, Pennsylvania where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science. Six years later in 1998, she got a Master’s degree in Geology from Arizona State University. In 2016, she received a Ph.D. in Science Education.

Since the entire Inspiration4 crew had never been to space, they all received official training from SpaceX. For Proctor, this involved learning how to fly planes. Together, they also did more than 30 hours of rehearsal in a Crew Dragon simulator. Congrats to this Amazon.

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