From the “Hidden Figures” to former NASA astronaut Mae C. Jemison, the accomplishments and contributions of Black women will forever be embedded in the evolution of the STEM industry. The latest Black woman to make history in the space is astronaut Jeanette Epps. According to NASA, Epps has been assigned to the Boeing Starliner-1 mission, making her the first Black woman to join an International Space Station crew.
Epps was initially selected to become an ISS crew member two years ago but was removed from the assignment due to an unforeseen last-minute crew change. For the new expedition—which is slated to be a six-month mission—she will join fellow NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Sunita Williams. The launch will take place in 2021. “Jeanette Epps is the natural addition to NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 mission,” associate administrator for human exploration and operations at NASA Kathy Lueders told CNBC. “She fully complements the other members of the first Boeing full duration crewed mission.”
Epps, a Syracuse, New York native, took to Twitter to express her excitement about being selected for the mission. “I’m super excited to join Suni Williams and Josh Cassada on the first operational Boeing crew mission to the International Space Station,” she said in a video. “I’ve flown in helicopters with Suni flying and I’ve flown in the backseat of a T-38 with Josh flying and they are both wonderful people to work with. I’m looking forward to the mission.”
Epps’ appointment comes at a time when there is a need for more racial and gender diversity in the aerospace industry. According to Marie Claire, there are only 18 African-American astronauts in NASA history and a third of them are women.