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article imageNASA announces first African-American space station crew member

By Arthur Weinreb     Jan 10, 2017 in Science
While African-American astronauts have flown on the space shuttle and have visited the ISS on technical or supply missions, none have ever been a member of the crew. NASA announced Jeanette Epps will become the first black ISS crew member next year.
Last week, NASA announced Epps is scheduled to lift off from Kazakhstan in May 2018 and fly to the International Space Station. She will serve as a flight engineer for Expeditions 56 and 57.
Epps, a native of Syracuse, New York, graduated from Cochrane High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Le Moyne College in 1992. She went on to obtain a Master of Science degree two years later and in 2000, she earned a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland.
After completing her studies, Epps was employed by Ford as a scientific researcher. She left Ford in 2002 and went to work at the CIA as a Technical Intelligence Officer. She later joined NASA. In 2009 Epps entered NASA’s 20th astronaut class and became one of 14 people out of 3,500 applicants to make the cut.
Since joining NASA, Epps has worked at mission control, speaking with astronauts aboard the space station and in other support roles. She has received T-38 flight training, and has been trained in EVA (spacewalks), geology and robotics. She also became an “aquanaut” and spent nine days underwater in 2014. She was one of a crew of six, the same number as are on the ISS, who simulated drilling into an asteroid that astronauts on future missions may do.
Epps has also become fluent in Russian. During the course of her career, Epps has received numerous awards and has had several scientific papers published. While employed at Ford, she was awarded both a provisional and a U.S. patent for research she had done.
Epps recalls when she was nine years of age her brother saw her school marks and those of her sisters and told the girls they could become aerospace engineers or astronauts. Epps remembers thinking that was “cool.” She was also inspired by the fact around this time, Sally Ride and other women were being selected for the astronaut program.
The announcement of Epps becoming the first African-American astronaut to become a member of the crew of the ISS follows the announcement of another first. Astronaut Peggy Whitson became the oldest woman to fly in space and will still be on the ISS next month when she turns 57.
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