When NASA announced the International Space Station crewmembers for upcoming missions, they ended up making history. First-flight astronaut Jeannette Epps will be the first African-American space station crewmember when she launches for her mission in May 2018.
Epps will join veteran astronaut Andrew Feustel who has been assigned as flight engineer for Expedition 56 and will remain on the International Space Station for Expedition 57.
The New York native has an impressive resume: a bachelor’s degree in physics from LeMoyne College as well as holding an M.S. and a Ph.D in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland. She then spent two years as a technical specialist in the scientific research laboratory at Ford Motor Company and then went on to spend seven years as a technical intelligence officer in the CIA.
In 2009, she was selected as one of 14 people to join the 20th NASA astronaut class and currently works in the ISS Operations Branch where she works through issues in support of space station crews.
Epps said when she was around nine-years-old, her brother was the one who convinced her to work in the field after seeing her extraordinary grades in math and science. Though she didn’t think she would be selected to become an astronaut, she stuck with the idea of becoming an aerospace engineer.
“I met so many people applying to the astronaut corps and I was in aerospace engineering and there were a lot of people mechanical and in aerospace who were applying, but there phenomenal people weren’t getting in so it was at that point I said, ‘well maybe an astronaut is definitely not on my list, so I’m just gonna make my career whatever I want it to be’ and I kind of went from there,” Epps said in an interview with Astronomy.
As her first flight, a lot of preparation is required before she can board the ISS, including space walk training, robotics, T-38 jet training, geology and National Outdoor Leadership School training, as well as Russian language training.