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Our Opinion

Our Opinion: The inspiration of Stephanie Wilson

NASA’s crew announcement for the Artemis II mission is another small step toward the giant leap of revitalizing moon exploration. That’s an exciting prospect for our country and all across the world who gaze skyward toward the final frontier of space; humans have not traveled beyond low Earth orbit since the Apollo missions more than 50 years ago. But it’s also a point of pride for our county, as the Artemis team includes Stephanie Wilson, a seasoned spacefarer and Taconic High School graduate whose astronomical ambitions were first sparked and nurtured in the Berkshires.

Ms. Wilson is not part of the four-person crew for the second scheduled mission of the Artemis program, but her depth of experience, including on-the-ground support roles, makes her a critical part of a program propelling the hopes of a new American space age. Artemis II will be the first crewed mission of the Orion, testing the life support systems and capacities of a craft that NASA hopes to use for flights into deep space. If all goes well, NASA’s plans for further Artemis missions over the next several years will see humanity’s grasp return to the surface of the moon while extending our reach to heavenly bodies beyond such as Mars.

It’s refreshing to conceive of an ambitious 21st-century American project inoculated against our increasingly divisive instincts, instead offering the prospects of unity and common cause in scientific advancement and exploration of our place in the universe. We’re proud of the Berkshire connection to that effort via Ms. Wilson. In addition to her expertise, her experience in breaking boundaries makes her a particularly fitting member of the Artemis team. The second Black woman in space, Ms. Wilson until 2022 held the record for the longest time in space of any Black woman; now, she’s part of the team that endeavors to land the first woman and the first person of color on the moon.

That representation means something to countless kids across America who see doors opened by folks like them putting in the work and summoning the courage to boldly push the boundaries of our collective human footprint. Ms. Wilson has inspired plenty of young people right here in her old stomping grounds — from her 2019 commencement address at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts to becoming part of the lesson plan in the late Jay Pasachoff’s astronomy classes at Williams College.

When Mr. Pasachoff died last year, he was remembered in the Berkshire community and beyond as a renowned scientist and a dedicated educator. Those roles helped shape Ms. Wilson’s early trajectory toward becoming an astronaut. When she was 12, she visited the astronomy professor to pepper him with questions about a field that excited her, and the two stayed in touch after her career launched. That story resonates in the background of the Artemis program to which Ms. Wilson now contributes, and there’s a lesson there for all of us: Those who reach for the heavens stand on the shoulders of the folks whose calling is here on Earth to educate, mentor and encourage. We are proud that our Berkshire community has produced inspirations of each kind.

Stephanie Wilson might not be going to the moon with Artemis II, but she has landed among the stars whose light inspires us all — including, hopefully, the next Stephanie Wilson sitting in a science class right now.

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