NASA recently announced astronaut Jeanette Epps would be joining the crew members Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada on the first operational flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) on 2021.
NASA hopes the crewed Starliner mission will take off in 2021, despite the Boeing’s spacecraft being behind in development. The six-month expedition will make Epps the first Black woman to live and work in space for an extended period if it works out.
“So many young girls do need to see someone who looks like them doing things that they never thought they could do. Here I am. I’m doing a lot of these things that you never thought you would be able to do.”
Jeanette Epps is a native of Syracuse, New York. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Physics in 1992 from LeMoyne College, a master’s degree in science in 1994, and a doctorate in aerospace engineering in 2000 from the University of Maryland, College Park. She has also worked as a CIA technical intelligence officer for seven years before being selected for NASA’s 2009 astronaut class.
She was tapped before in 2018 to become an ISS crew member aboard a Russian spacecraft, which would have made her the first Black astronaut, man or woman, on an extended space mission. But despite completing her training, she was removed from the assignment at the last minute without any explanation from NASA.
Henry Epps, her brother, blamed racism for Jeanette’s removal. But Jeanette refused to comment on her brother’s remarks for the last-minute crew change.
“Diversity and inclusion are integral to mission success at NASA, and we have a diverse astronaut corps reflective of that approach.”
Epps has responded to her new space assignment in a Twitter video, saying she’s “looking forward to the mission” with astronauts Williams and Cassada, whom she has both worked with before. Epp’s new ISS mission in 2021 will follow astronaut Victor Glover’s six-month ISS mission scheduled to launch by October 23 this year, making him the first Black male astronaut to go into space for an extended mission.
Epps and Glover are both set to make history as crew members on extended space missions. Though, they are not to be the first Black astronauts to visit the ISS or in space in general. According to NASA, six Black Americans have visited the space station in the past, including Stephanie Wilson, who has visited three times. Mae Jemison, an African-American astronaut, has also set history in 1992 for being the first Black woman in space.