HISTORIC NASA MISSION

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Black woman to join International Space Station crew 

NASA announces Jeanette J. Epps as the first Black woman to join an International Space Station crew for a long-duration mission. She’ll join fellow astronauts Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada on a sixth-month expedition slated to launch in 2021.
(NASA/TNS)

BY MURI ASSUNCAO
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS/TNS

Astronaut Jeanette Epps is getting ready to shatter a long-standing glass ceiling on her way to the International Space Station.

NASA announced this week that Epps will go on her first six-month expedition to the orbiting space laboratory next year, making the 49-year-old aerospace engineer of Syracuse, N.Y., the first Black woman to live and work aboard the station for a long duration mission.

She will take part in the first operational crewed flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner. According to the agency, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program aims to “develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems capable of carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and to the space station.”

‘Fantastic addition’

Epps will be joined by astronauts Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada.

“They are both wonderful people to work with, so I’m looking forward to the mission,” she said in a video shared on Twitter, adding that she is “super excited” to be part of the crew.

“Jeanette is a fantastic addition to the Starliner-1 team,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridestine wrote in a tweet.

Epps, who has a master’s degree in science and a doctorate in aerospace engineering, was scheduled to launch into space in 2018.

But without providing any explanations, NASA announced on Jan. 18, 2018 that astronaut Serena AunonChancellor would take her place in a June expedition.

An issue of racism?

Epps was to “return to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to assume duties in the Astronaut Office and be considered for assignment to future missions,” the agency said.

The Washington Post reported at the time that her brother, Henry Epps, suggested that the reason behind the unexpected change in crew had been fueled by racism.

“My sister Dr. Jeannette Epps has been fighting against oppressive racism and misogynist in NASA and now they are holding her back and allowing a Caucasian Astronaut to take her place!” he wrote in a since-deleted Facebook.

He also linked his post to an online petition demanding the agency “to return Dr. Jeanette Epps back to ISS mission.”

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