Meet Astronaut Jeanette Epps, First African-American To Be Crew Member On International Space Station

January 6, 2017  |  

In Black Girl Magic news, the first African-American to call the International Space Station home, woman or man, will be astronaut Jeanette Epps.

In a press release from NASA, it was announced that Epps, 46, will have the honor of being the first African-American space station crew member when she blasts off in May 2018 on Expedition 56. She will have the role of flight engineer and will remain on board the International Space Station for Expedition 57 as well. This will be Epps’s first flight into space.

She will be led by veteran astronaut Andrew Feustel, who will be commander of Expedition 56 after launching in March 2018 and completing his own flight engineering duties for Expedition 55.

As for Epps’s background, according to NASA, in 1992 she obtained a bachelor’s degree in physics from LeMoyne College before earning a master’s of science in 1994 and a doctorate in 2000 in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland. When she completed grad school, Epps worked in a research laboratory and helped bring to life several patents before being brought on as a technical intelligence officer for the CIA. She had that role for seven years before she was selected to be a part of the 2009 astronaut class.

According to NASA, astronauts like Epps who visit the space station, which is located in low Earth orbit, allow NASA to make major research breakthroughs and demonstrate new technologies through their methods of exploration. In case you need a clear definition of what it is, the International Space Station is classified as a space environment research laboratory.

Epps is already getting to work and training for her upcoming missions, which will leave her 250 miles above the earth’s surface for up to six months:

Epps, a twin, and the youngest of seven children, has come a long way from her beginnings in upstate New York. And while she’s sure to inspire many people, including young women taking part in STEM-related studies, she told The Lenny Letter back in July that her biggest role model in her work as an astronaut is actually her mother.

“There were people like Guy Bluford, the first African American in space. But mostly, it was my mother,” she said. “She thought that educating yourself was the way to go. If you educated yourself, you never had to worry about anything. Still, no one in my immediate family was an engineer or a doctor or anything like that. She said this funny thing to me and my sister when we finished graduate school: that she was surprised. She said, ‘Man, my biggest hope for you guys was that you would become secretaries, and look at you now!'”

 

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