Jeanette Epps recently opened up about NASA’s controversial decision to boot her from a flight to the International Space Station in January. Her brother Henry Epps said the agency exposed their “oppressive racism and misogyny” in stopping Epps from being the first Black astronaut to complete the space mission.
The astronaut has neither confirmed nor denied whether racism played a role in the agency’s decision during an interview at the Tech Open Air festival in Berlin on Thursday (June 21), which was posted online.
“I don’t know where the decision came from and how it was made, in detail or at what level,” Epps said, adding that she had passed all of her exams and the training needed to go to space.
“There’s no time to really be concerned about sexism and racism and things like that, because we have to perform,” Epps said in her interview. “And if it comes into play, then you’re hindering the mission, and you’re hindering the performance. And so whether or not it is a factor, I can’t speculate what people are thinking and doing unless I have a little bit more information.”
In January, Epps was removed from flight Expedition 56/57, which was set to launch in June. Another astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor was named as her replacement. NASA was initially quiet about Epps’s removal, but later 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.”
NASA’s unexpected decision was heavily criticized as the wrong move, with many social media users feeling it was tied to racial discrimination. Epps’ brother demanded that NASA reinstate his sister to the mission and allow her to make history using a MoveOn.org petition he posted to his Facebook page.
Epps, who is still waiting to be reassigned to a new mission, has resumed duties with the astronaut corps in Houston, Syracuse.com reported.