NASA has assigned astronaut Dr. Jeanette Epps to NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 mission, the first operational crewed flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Planned for a launch in 2021, the historic spaceflight will be the first for Epps, and the six-month expedition aboard the orbiting space laboratory will make her the first Black woman crew member to work and live on the ISS for a long-duration mission.

In congratulating Dr. Epps, history-making Astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, who became the first Black woman in space twenty-eight years ago this month on September 12, 1992, noted how cool it was to be celebrating the news of Epps’ assignment on Katherine Johnson’s birthday. Johnson, a trailblazing NASA mathematician, computer scientist, and ‘hidden figure’ no more, passed away earlier this year on February 24, 2020 at the age of 101.

According to NASA’s press release, Epps earned a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1992 from LeMoyne College in her hometown of Syracuse, New York. She completed a master’s degree in science in 1994 and a doctorate in aerospace engineering in 2000, both from the University of Maryland, College Park.

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 worked in a research laboratory for more than two years, co-authoring several patents, before the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recruited her. She spent seven years as a CIA technical intelligence officer before her selection as a member of the 2009 astronaut class. 

Dr. Epps will join NASA astronauts Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada for the history-making Boeing Starliner-1 mission next year. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems capable of carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and to the space station. Commercial transportation to and from the station will provide expanded utility, additional research time and broader opportunities for discovery on the orbital outpost.

Lead Photo: NASA Astronaut Jeanette Epps; Credit: NASA