1st Black Woman To Pilot A Spacecraft Says Seeing Earth Was The Best Part Sian Proctor, who lifted off this month with three crewmates on the first all-civilian space launch, tells NPR that she "couldn't get enough" of the view from orbit.

The 1st Black Woman To Pilot A Spacecraft Says Seeing Earth Was The Best Part

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A MARTINEZ, BYLINE: A lot of us dream of the stars. Very few of us, though, have been able to travel a little closer to them. But a small group of civilians got that chance in a history-making journey last week.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Ignition and lift-off. (Unintelligible), go Dragon, go Falcon. Godspeed, Inspiration4.

(CHEERING)

MARTINEZ: The crew of the Inspiration4 spent three days in a SpaceX capsule. It was the first space flight in history to orbit Earth with a crew made up entirely of private citizens. One of them, Sian Proctor, became the first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft, and she is here with us now. Sian, first of all, welcome back to Earth.

SIAN PROCTOR: Thank you very much. It's great to be here.

MARTINEZ: Now, what was it like to be up there in space? I mean, I just got to know.

PROCTOR: It was the most amazing, stunning, awesome experience of my life.

MARTINEZ: What was the most stunning, awesome part about it?

PROCTOR: Oh, my goodness - opening the cupola and sliding my head up there and then seeing the entire sphere of our beautiful planet. And because I went up not only just as a scientist but also as an artist and poet, to me, the Earth became this kind of living painting, this moving, swirling ball. I just couldn't get enough.

MARTINEZ: I mean, I can't imagine, Sian, what would be better inspiration for a poet than to just see what you saw. Did you get to write anything?

PROCTOR: I did write a few things while I was up there. I'm still kind of polishing it out before I share it with the world.

MARTINEZ: Oh.

PROCTOR: But - well, I can share with you one of the poems I wrote before I went to space 'cause it's kind of interesting to think about what to leave your family, if something were to go wrong, to let them know how you feel. And for me, I wrote a poem. And it was based on the only poem I ever memorized, which was "Gold" (ph) by Robert Frost. And I titled it "Last Gold."

(Reading) Nature's last green is also gold. Her boldest moment, we behold. Her decaying end of power, a beautiful bright golden hour. Flowers turned to wreaths, Gaia rejoices in grief. Dusk turns a shattered gray one last gasp of golden ray.

I just wanted to have that there so that they knew how I felt.

MARTINEZ: I mean, what a thing to write about, too, because there was the chance - right? - that something could go wrong, and we'd have to deal with it.

PROCTOR: Right. And you know, nothing is without risk. But you always should be prepared regardless because we just don't know.

MARTINEZ: How close do you think this trip, the one you took, gets us to the reality of private space travel?

PROCTOR: Well, you know, I think that it's all about those steps, those first steps. And you know, this is really ushering in a new space era, just broadening the idea of who can have access to space.

MARTINEZ: Yeah, because, you know, you were breaking ground just by making this journey.

PROCTOR: Right. And not only that, I'm the fourth Black female from the United States to fly to space, only four of us. And out of the four that have gone, only one person has gone multiple times. I really want to have that message out there that, you know, you can become a pilot. You can go to the stars - but not only for people of color and girls of color, but also for us what I call seasoned individuals. You know, I've been chasing space my entire life, and it took me 50-plus years to get here, but I made it.

MARTINEZ: Sian Proctor, thank you very much for taking the time.

PROCTOR: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SIMON P. CASTONGUAY AND TAMBOUR'S "URSA MINOR [CAROLINE'S THEME]")

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