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After breaking barriers on a trip out of this world, Valley professor returns home

Sian Proctor became the first woman of color to pilot a spacecraft as part of the first all civilian mission to space.

TEMPE, Ariz. — Dr. Sian Proctor will return home on Saturday after a months-long journey that brought her to the top of mountains and out of this world. 

The Maricopa County Community College professor was picked as one of the four civilians to take part in the Inspiration 4 mission that spent three days in space last weekend. It marked the realization of a life-long dream. 

“I'm still amazed that it happened,” Dr. Proctor said. 

She will never forget the moments, sitting in a cockpit, as the countdown ticked to zero.

“And it hits one and literally those engines go and you like, 'Whoa,'” Dr. Proctor said. “There is no feeling like it. Better than any roller coaster you can ever imagine.”

After traveling thousands of miles, traveling farther than the International Space Station, their ship started to orbit the earth. For the first time, she was able to look down at the planet.

"The earth is stunningly beautiful. Blues and whites and browns and reds. And just the colors. It really is a portrait in motion," Dr. Proctor said.

Her trip marked the first time a woman of color was the pilot on a mission to space.

Throughout the trip, the Valley professor said she was not nervous, except for trying to be a good example for those who followed in her footsteps.

"A little bit of that imposter syndrome, wanting to be the best but making sure you have the skills to do it," Dr. Proctor said.

The professor always wanted to go to space. She was a finalist to become a NASA Astronaut more than 10 years ago, before just missing out. She likes to say space was in her DNA. 

Her dad worked as a contractor on the Apollo missions that put the first men on the moon. A prized possession, an autograph to her father, thanking him for his work.

It was an autograph she brought with her to space.

"I took a moment and thanked my parents for everything they did for me," Dr. Proctor said. "I think my dad would have been amazed. He would have enjoyed every moment of it."

The trip has helped raise more than $200 million for St. Jude. She will now try to inspire her kids around the valley to achieve their dreams, like the one she just accomplished.

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