Astronaut Jeanette

NASA Astronaut Jeanette Epps Set to Become First Black Female Crew Member on Space Station – SciTechDaily

Jeanette Epps

NASA has assigned astronaut Jeanette Epps to NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 mission, the first operational crewed flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on a mission to the International Space Station.

NASA Jeanette Epps

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps. Credit: NASA

Epps will join NASA astronauts Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada for a six-month expedition planned for a launch in 2021 to the orbiting space laboratory. The flight will follow NASA certification after a successful uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 and Crew Flight Test with astronauts.

The spaceflight will be the first for Epps, who earned a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1992 from LeMoyne College in her hometown of Syracuse, New York. She completed a master’s degree in science in 1994 and a doctorate in aerospace engineering in 2000, both from the University of Maryland, College Park.

While earning her doctorate, Epps was a NASA Graduate Student Researchers Project fellow, authoring several journal and conference articles on her research. After completing graduate school, she worked in a research laboratory for more than two years, co-authoring several patents, before the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recruited her. She spent seven years as a CIA technical intelligence officer before her selection as a member of the 2009 astronaut class. 

NASA Astronaut Jeanette Epps

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps. Credit: NASA

NASA assigned Williams and Cassada to the Starliner-1 mission in August 2018. The spaceflight will be the first for Cassada and third for Williams, who spent long-duration stays aboard the space station on Expeditions 14/15 and 32/33.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems capable of carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and to the space station. Commercial transportation to and from the station will provide expanded utility, additional research time and broader opportunities for discovery on the orbital outpost.

For nearly 20 years, the station has served as a critical testbed for NASA to understand and overcome the challenges of long-duration spaceflight. As commercial companies focus on providing human transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit, NASA will concentrate its focus on building spacecraft and rockets for deep-space missions.

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First Jeanette

NASA: Jeanette Epps could become first Black woman to join ISS crew – CNN

New York (CNN Business)Two years ago, NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps was slated to fly into orbit aboard a Russian spacecraft and become the first Black astronaut to serve as a crew member of the International Space Station.

At the last minute, Epps was removed from that assignment with no explanation.
Though more than a dozen Black Americans have traveled to space since Guion Bluford became the first to do so in 1983, none has had the opportunity to live and work in space for an extended period, as the ISS has enabled more than 200 astronauts to do since 2000.
On Tuesday, after years of speculation about why NASA removed Epps from her assignment, she was finally reassigned. NASA said she will join astronauts Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada on a 2021 mission aboard a Boeing-built Starliner spacecraft, a vehicle still under development that is expected to re-do a key test flight later this year.
Epps has a doctorate in aerospace engineering and served seven years as a technical intelligence officer at the CIA before joining the astronaut corps in 2009. NASA said in 2017 that Epps wouid make history by joining the crew of Expedition 56. During ISS expeditions, astronauts become residents of the space station and spend months conducting experiments and caring for the 20-year-old orbiting laboratory.
But even as more than a dozen Black Americans have traveled to space on NASA’s Space Shuttle, some of whom helped build the ISS, none of them served as expedition crew members.
NASA astronaut Victor Glover could be the first Black person to join the ISS crew as well. He’s assigned to a SpaceX Crew Dragon mission that is scheduled to take off later this year.
In 2018, NASA abruptly rescinded Epps’ assignment after she had completed her training, less than six months before Expedition 56 was slated to launch. She was replaced by Serena Auñón-Chancellor, and Epps publicly expressed confusion about the decision. Astronauts typically are replaced only for medical or family-related matters, and Epps confirmed neither applied to her situation.
“It was a decision of my management, and it’s something that we’re going to try to continue to work through,” Epps said at a conference in Berlin in last year. She said that she didn’t know who made the decision or why, adding that she did not believe that the decision came from the cosmonauts she trained with.
“I think I was able to develop really good working relationships with everyone there,” she said, referring to her training at Russian space facilities.
When asked if she attributed the decision to sexism or racism, Epps replied: “There’s no time to really be concerned about sexism and racism and things like that because we have to perform. And if it comes into play, then you’re hindering the mission…Whether or not it’s a factor, I can’t specifically speculate on what people are thinking.”
Details about the decision still have not been made public, and the annoucement about Epps’ new assignment did not mention Expedition 56.
“A number of factors are considered when making flight assignments,” NASA said in a statement. “These decisions are personnel matters for which NASA doesn’t provide information.”
Epps could not be immediately reached for comment.
The mission Epps is now assigned to, Starliner-1, will be the first fully operational flight of Boeing’s new spacecraft, which the company is developing for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
But Boeing must still hit several milestones before then. Starliner must repeat an uncrewed orbital flight test after its first flight, in December 2019, proved the spacecraft was riddled with software errors. Boeing was forced to bring the spacecraft home days ahead of schedule and without completing its primary objective of docking with the ISS. A do-over of the mission is expected later this year.
After the uncrewed test flight is successfully completed, NASA astronauts Michael Fincke, Nicole Mann, and Chris Ferguson, a former NASA astronaut who now works for Boeing, will pilot Starliner on its first-ever crewed flight before the vehicle is certified as “operational.” That will pave the way for Epps’ mission.
Williams and Cassada, the astronauts previously already assigned to Starliner-1 mission, each posted videos on Twitter welcoming Epps to the crew.
Update: This story was updated to note that Victor Glover could become the first Black astronaut to live aboard the ISS.

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