NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps is now poised to be the first Black woman crew member of the International Space Station (ISS), according to sciencetimes.com.
On Tuesday, Epps was assigned to the NASA Boeing Starliner-1. The African-American aerospace engineer and astronaut will join the space administration’s first operational crewed flight for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, in a mission to the ISS.
To quote the Science Times article:
The Boeing Starliner-1 mission will be the first for Jeanette Epps. She first earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Le Moyne College, in her hometown of Syracuse, New York. She then completed her master’s degree in science and her doctorate in aerospace engineering, both from the University of Maryland.
While she was pursuing her master’s and doctorate, Epps received a NASA Graduate Student Researchers Project (GSRP) Fellowship grant, publishing several academic papers on the way. After her doctorate, she started working in a research lab with the Ford Motor Company for more than two years before moving to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), where she was a technical intelligence officer for seven years.
In 2009, she was selected as a member of that year’s astronaut class. In January 2017, NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps was assigned to be a part of Expeditions 56 and 57. She was set to fly into Earth’s orbit aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. This was supposed to be the first long-duration ISS mission, including an African-American astronaut.
However, on January 16, 2018, NASA announced that Jeanette Epps would be reassigned to future missions, being replaced by her backup Serena M. Auñon-Chancellor. The reason for the reassignment was never officially explained.
There have been some Black Americans who have traveled to and from space, with a former fighter pilot and astronaut Guion Bluford being the first as a crew member of the 1983 Challenger. However, there has been no Black American assigned to live and work in space for more extended periods. The International Space Station has already seen 240 individuals across 395 spaceflights, since 2000.
Epps will be joining NASA astronauts Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada.
Based on NASA’s current schedule, the first Black astronaut to live and work on the ISS will likely be Victor Glover, who is set to head there on the SpaceX Crew-1 mission on Oct. 23.