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NASA couldn’t offer a detailed reason on why Jeanette Epps was abruptly pulled from an upcoming mission to space, but the astronaut’s brother has one: “Oppressive racism and misogyny” are to blame for the agency’s decision to stop her from being the first Black astronaut to go to the International Space Station, Henry Epps said.

“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!” Henry Epps wrote on Facebook on Saturday night.

The astronaut’s brother was urging NASA to reinstate his sister to the mission and allow her to make history, according to a petition he posted to his Facebook page. The petition had about 573 signatures, including Henry Epps’ and his family members’, as of Monday morning.

Racism will not be tolerated, he said.

“We have lost all of the gains we gained over the past 40 years in one year? No more!” he said. “We cannot continue to tolerate what is going on in America but we must stand together and stand behind our people and ou(r) nation! Take a stand and sign the petition! Thank you!”

Jeanette Epps was removed from highly anticipated flight Expedition 56/57, which is set to launch in June, NASA said late Thursday. Serena Auñón-Chancellor, who’s been with the agency since 2006, had been reassigned as her replacement.

NASA remained pretty tight-lipped about why Jeanette Epps was removed. The agency only said that she would return to the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to be “considered for assignment to future missions.”

Epps’ selection for the expedition had stirred excitement within several communities of color, the Houston Chronicle reported. She will still be celebrated for her #BlackExcellence.


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