NASA has announced that first-flight astronaut Jeanette Epps will crew the International Space Station in 2018. According to a press release, Epps will become the first African American space station crew member when she launches on her spaceflight in May 2018. She’ll join Andrew J. Feustel as a flight engineer on Expedition 56, and remain on board for Expedition 57.
“Each space station crew brings something different to the table, and Drew and Jeanette both have a lot to offer,” Chris Cassidy, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, said in a statement. “The space station will benefit from having them on board.”
Epps earned a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1992 at LeMoyne College in her hometown of Syracuse, New York. She went on to complete a master’s of science in 1994 and a doctorate in 2000 in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland. While earning her doctorate, Epps was a NASA Graduate Student Researchers Project fellow, authoring several journal and conference articles on her research. After completing graduate school, she went on to work in a research laboratory for more than two years, co-authoring several patents, before being recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency. She spent seven years as a CIA technical intelligence officer before being selected as a member of the 2009 astronaut class.
Last year, Epps participated in a NASA video called “NASA: On the Edge of Forever,” which featured her, several other astronauts and also William Shatner and Walter Koenig. Near the very end of it, Epps said, “So every step we take, we're just getting further and further into space and becoming more and more like Star Trek." And Epps, on several occasions, has met Nichelle Nichols, who inspired many woman and people of color to reach for the stars. Check out this tweet she posted in 2015: