Nature, Weather & Space

Astronaut Jeanette Epps Will Make History As First Black Woman To Join A Long-Term Space Station Expedition

Congratulations to this trailblazer!

Astronaut Jeanette Epps got some exciting news from NASA earlier this week when the space agency announced Epps will be heading out on a long-term expedition to the International Space Station (ISS). Epps has been assigned to the NASA Boeing Starliner-1 mission, operating Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft along with fellow astronauts Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada.

The launch is planned for 2021 and the three astronauts will spend six months on their expedition to the orbiting space laboratory. According to the official NASA announcement, the flight will take place only after a successful uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 and a Crew Flight Test with astronauts.

This mission will also mark a historic first for NASA, as Epps will be the first Black woman to live and work at the International Space Station for a long-term mission. In the past, Stephanie Wilson has visited the ISS during her space shuttle missions, but this would be the first dedicated, extended-stay ISS mission for a Black woman.

Robert Markowitz/NASA via AP

Previously, Epps was scheduled to fly to the ISS in 2018 but was ultimately removed from the mission. Now, she hopes that 2021 will be her year to finally take orbit.

Epps posted a video on Twitter expressing her gratitude and excitement for her selection to the Starliner-1 mission.

“I’m super excited to join Suni Williams and Josh Cassada on the first operational Boeing crewed mission to the International Space Station,” Epps said in the Aug. 25 video. “I’ve flown in helicopters with Suni flying and I’ve flown in the backseat of a T-38 with Josh flying, and they are both wonderful people to work with, so I’m looking forward to the mission.”

Epps started her journey with the space agency as a NASA Graduate Student Researchers Project fellow while she was pursuing her doctorate. Two years after she completed graduate school, she was working in a research laboratory when the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recruited her.

Epps then served as a technical intelligence officer with the CIA for seven years before NASA chose her as a part of the 2009 astronaut class. Epps has a master’s degree in science and a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland.

Best of luck to the trio of astronauts as they train and prepare for their adventure!