NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps to become first Black woman to join ISS crew

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps to become first Black woman to join ISS crew
Jeanette Epps (Source: NASA)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CBS/WBTV) - NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps will become the first Black woman to serve as a crew member on the International Space Station.

NASA made the announcement Tuesday.

“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 posted.

Epps will join astronauts Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada for a six-month expedition, planned to launch in 2021.

“Welcome to our CTS Starliner 1 crew Dr Jeanette Epps!!!!!” Williams tweeted.

The spaceflight will be a first for Epps, who joined the astronaut corps in 2009 and was assigned to the Soyuz MS-09 crew last January.

Epps is a former technical intelligence officer with the CIA who holds a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering. 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, NASA reports. She spent seven years as a CIA technical intelligence officer.

Epps had initially been scheduled to blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrone in Kazakhstan in early June for a planned 143-day stay in space, but was replaced by an astronaut in training for a later flight.

Astronaut Jeanette Epps, left, Soyuz MS-09 commander Sergey Prokopyev, center, and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst during space station flight training at Star City near Moscow.
Astronaut Jeanette Epps, left, Soyuz MS-09 commander Sergey Prokopyev, center, and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst during space station flight training at Star City near Moscow. (Source: NASA)

NASA has changed crew assignments in the past, most famously substituting Jack Swigert for Ken Mattingly three days before the launch of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission due to the latter's exposure to measles. Astronaut Tim Kopra was removed from a space shuttle crew less than six weeks before launch in 2011 after he was injured in a bicycle accident.

NASA spokeswoman Brandi Dean said that “a number of factors are considered when making flight assignments; these decisions are personnel matters, for which NASA doesn’t provide information.”

Copyright 2020 WBTV. All rights reserved.