Astronaut Jeanette Epps continues to smash ceilings as the first Black woman to join the International Space Crew of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner!
Epps was originally set to take off on a Russian spacecraft that was to fly into orbit two years ago that would have made her the first Black person to work and live in space for an extended period. However, she now has other plans as she sets out to join the Starliner crew. The Starliner is a new private capsule that was created to ferry NASA astronauts in and out of the International Space Station (ISS) next year (2021).
While many African Americans have traveled to space and even helped to build the ISS, Epps will become the first to serve as an expedition member. This mission will be her first spaceflight upon graduating from LeMoyne College in her hometown of Syracuse, New York — in 1992 — where she received a bachelor’s degree in physics.
After taking her talents to the University of Maryland, College Park in 1994, where she received a master’s degree in science, she went on to receive a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland as well.
During her tenure as a Ph.D. student, Epps went on to author several conference articles and journals on her research as a NASA Graduate Student Researchers Project fellow. For more than two years after completing graduate school, she stayed to work in a research laboratory where she co-authored many patents.
Among her many accolades, Epps was on the verge of creating history with the crew of Expedition 56 that would have allowed her to become a resident of the space station and spend up to six months caring for the 20-year-old orbiting laboratory as well as conducting experiments.
Many deem her removal and replacement from the crew as a snub but Epps addressed this during a press conference.
“It was the decision of my management, and it’s something that we’re going to try to continue to work through,” Epps said.
Epps also added that she has no idea as to why that decision was made but is positive that it did not come from her fellow cosmonauts.
“ I think I was able to develop a really good working relationship with everyone there,” she said.
According to CNN, as Boeing develops NASA’s Commercial Crew Program along with her new mission on Starliner-1, this will be the first fully operational flight on the company’s new spacecraft.
The Starliner will gain “NASA certification after a successful uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 and Crew Flight Test with astronauts” before Epps and her fellow crew can make the launch into space.