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

Updated September 24, 2021 at 1:36 PM ET

Sian Proctor, the first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft, says the most memorable moment from her three days in orbit aboard the first all-civilian Inspiration4 mission was the view of Earth.

"Oh my goodness, opening the cupola and sliding my head up there and then seeing the entire sphere of our beautiful planet," she tells NPR's Morning Edition.

"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," she tells host A Martínez. "I just couldn't get enough."

Proctor, with fellow crewmates Jared Isaacman, physician assistant Hayley Arceneaux and data engineer Chris Sembroski, lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sept. 15. Isaacman, the billionaire founder of Shift4 Payments, chartered the spacecraft from SpaceX and invited the others to join him.

The four, aboard a Dragon crew capsule, splashed down safely in the Atlantic Ocean last Saturday.

But Proctor kept in mind there was always a chance that something could go wrong. She shared a poem, based on one by Robert Frost, that she wrote to her family before the launch in case she did not make it back.

She calls it Last Gold:

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," Proctor says.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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