(AP)—Stephanie Wilson is one of only a handful of Black women to fly in space.

Wilson, 43, grew up in Pittsfield, Mass., torn between whether to pursue a career in astronomy or engineering. She chose the latter, went to Harvard University and worked on the Titan IV rocket. Following graduate school, she joined Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., in 1992, working on NASA’s Jupiter-exploring Galileo probe. That’s when she met the first Black woman in space, Mae Jemison, who encouraged her in her pursuits.

NASA picked Wilson as an astronaut in 1996. She became the second Black woman in space 10 years later.

“We still have a lot to do to encourage young women and women of color to apply for these types of jobs,” she said.

She’s comfortable with being a role model. Her message to young women is: “If we can do it, so can they.”

This is her third spaceflight, all in the past four years. She will help operate the robot arm.

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