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First Black Women to Live on ISS: Jeanette Epps


photo credit: NASA.gov

Jeanette Epps is set to become the first black woman to live on the International Space Station (ISS)! Jeannette Epps is an American aerospace engineer. She received her M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. She has worked for Ford and for the CIA.


She was selected in 2009 by NASA and later qualified in 2011. She received extensive training in Russian, spacewalks, robotics and geology in preparation to become an astronaut.


Cancelled Mission of 2018


Epps was scheduled to go to the ISS in 2018, but for reasons unknown to the public she was pulled last minute. She has stated in a tweet that it had nothing to do with her personal life and that she had no medical conditions that would prevent her, but she did state that she could not speak to why she was pulled. Last-minute changes are not rare at NASA. Her brother also tweeted about this event stating “My sister Dr. Jeannette Epps has been fighting against oppressive racism and misogyny in NASA and now they are holding her back and allowing a Caucasian Astronaut to take her place!"


Had she been part of this mission, she would have been the first black person to live in space. In an interview with The Cut in 2017 she stated about the cancelled mission “I’ll be the one spending the longest time on the ISS. As a steward, I want to do well with this honor. I want to make sure that young people know that this didn’t happen overnight. There was a lot of work involved, and a lot of commitment and consistency. It is a daunting task to take on.”


ISS Mission for 2021


Now Epps is set for an expedition in 2021 on the first operational crewed flight of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner. She will join the space agency's Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada for a scheduled six-month stay on the ISS. This will be her first spaceflight.


The International Space Station is a habitable low orbiting satellite. In fact, you can see it with the naked eye. If you have ever seen a small starlike object moving across the sky that you know is not an airplane and way slower than a shooting star and moving in a more direct path, that was probably the ISS. Its average altitude is about 250 miles.


The ISS is a research laboratory in which scientific experiments are conducted in astrobiology, astronomy, meteorology, physics, and other fields. The station is suited for testing the spacecraft systems and equipment required for possible future long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars. It is the largest artificial object in space and the largest satellite in low Earth orbit.


Jeannette Epp’s mission is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program which is dedicated to returning launches to US soil after years of dependence on Russian vessels. Starliner is one partner with NASA; SpaceX is another. Starliner is a little behind SpaceX who had its first crew demonstration in August.


Jeannette Epps is not the first black woman in space. That title belongs to Mae Jemison in 1992. Epps is also not the first black woman to visit the ISS, that title goes to Stephanie Wilson. Epps will be the first black woman to stay at the ISS for a long period of time, six months.


In October of 2020, the first black man to participate in a long duration visit to the ISS will be launching with SpaceX.


Follow Epps on Twitter


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