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7 things to know about NASA Astronaut Jeanette Epps, the first Black woman to fly to the International Space Station on a mission into orbit

Photo: NASA.gov
Photo: NASA.gov

NASA Astronaut Jeanette Epps is making a second attempt at history by becoming the first Black woman to be assigned on a mission in orbit.

In a news release on Aug. 25, Epps will be joined by two other astronauts on a six-month expedition planned for a 2021 launch. She is currently undergoing NASA certification in anticipation of the planned launch.

This will be Epps’ first space flight in her career.

Learn more about Epps with these five facts below:

1. Epps was born in Syracuse, NY.

She graduated from Thomas J. Cocoran High School in 1988 and attended LeMoyne College with a Bachelor of Science in Physics, her biography said.

2. She received her Masters and Ph.D degrees at the University of Maryland

Epps majored in Aerospace Engineering and received both a Masters and Doctorate in 1994 and 2000 for the same major. She was also a NASA fellow while in college. She authored several research articles involving extensive testing of composite swept‐tip beams, comparative analysis of analytical models and experimental data for shape memory alloys and the application of shape memory alloy actuators for tracking helicopter rotor blades, according to NASA.

3. She was selected to become a NASA astronaut in 2009.

Epps was one of nine members selected in the 20th NASA Astronaut class, her biography said. Her training includes Russian Language training, robotics, T-38 Training, and spacewalk training.

4. She would have been the first Black woman to live on the ISS in 2018, but was reassigned.

Her assignment from NASA went viral when it was announced in 2018, but was later reassigned for unknown reasons, a health expert from NASA told KPRC in 2018.

5. Epps’ hobbies and activities include scuba diving and reading.

As a Syracuse native, she also enjoys traveling and spending time with family. She has both Twitter and Instagram accounts.

6. Before NASA, she worked at Ford Motor Company and the CIA

Epps worked as a technical specialist in Ford’s Scientific Research Laboratory, and her research for a collision location detection system lead to a U.S. Patent in 2001, according to NASA. She also spent seven years working with the CIA as a Technical Intelligence Officer.

7. Epps received several distinguished awards.

According to her biography, her awards include being inducted to the University of Maryland’s Department of Aerospace Engineering Distinguished Alumni in 2012 and recipient of the Glenn Martin Medal, respectively. She also received an Honorary Doctorate degree at LeMoyne College in Syracuse.


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