jessica watkins

NASA just graduated its newest class of astronauts. Out of the over 18,300 applicants from all around the United States, the District of Columbia, Guam, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico, there are the 12 who were selected. For those doing the math, that puts the odds of being selected at less than 1 in 1,500. 2017’s class is full of incredibly talented people with backgrounds ranging from engineering, the Navy, the Marines, to geoscience. One of the most exciting parts? Roughly half of them are women!

Jessica Watkins may be a new astronaut, but she isn’t new to space exploration. Already exploring Mars as part of the JPL team that operates the Curiosity rover, the Stanford graduate enjoys a rich life outside of work. With a Ph.D. from UCLA and a postdoctorate from Caltech working to discover Mars’ geological history, Watkins also writes short stories, flies planes, and plays rugby.


Jessica Watkins came to Caltech to collaborate with scientists and engineers across disciplines—and, of course, as a fan of space exploration, to be a part of the Caltech-JPL connection. For a recent PhD interested in studying Mars and mining the trove of information being collected by the Curiosity rover, there was no better place to pursue postdoctoral study. Today, as a member of the Mars Science Laboratory Science Team, Watkins is helping to plan the rover’s activities and analyze its data to understand the history of how the Gale Crater on Mars was formed. She also finds time to assistant-coach the Caltech Women’s Basketball team, write short stories, rock climb, and fly planes.

In this video, Watkins, a Chair’s Postdoctoral Scholar in Caltech’s Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, talks about her longstanding passion for Mars’ geology, why it’s an exciting time to be studying the Red Planet, and how her privately funded fellowship fuels her creativity.

Astronaut candidate Jessica Watkins discusses her research with the MSL team!


Me for Halloween 2010. The costume was my take on Micheline Pitt’s “Haunted Mansion Girl”. I did my own make up and my friend and FABULOUS hair stylist, Jessica Watkins, made my wig. MDM (my chef ex) destroyed my wig. I could have murdered him. She spent a LOT of time to make it perfect….so. pissed.

Jessica Watkins is on model mayhem if you want to see her work. Flawless.