Once scheduled for launch in June, NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps, who was scheduled to be the first black American crew member on the International Space Station (ISS), was bumped by NASA for as yet undisclosed reasons. In a Facebook post on Saturday, Henry Epps wrote: “My sister Dr. Jeanette Epps has been fighting against oppressive racism and misogynist in NASA and now they are holding her back and allowing a Caucasian Astronaut to take her place!” Henry Epps is the astronaut’s brother. He linked to a MoveOn.org petition asking NASA to reinstate his sister on the space mission.
In a response to the Washington Post, NASA stated: “Diversity and inclusion are integral to mission success at NASA and we have a diverse astronaut corps reflective of that approach.” However, the agency did not specify the reasons for pulling Epps from the mission. Epps told the Washington Post that she would not comment on her brother's social media posts. She wrote that she did not know the reasons why she was pulled from the flight, adding that neither she, nor anyone in her family, created the MoveOn.org petition.
Last-minute crew changes for space flights are relatively common. For example, Astronaut Ken Mattingly was pulled from the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission in 1970 and replaced by Jack Swigert because of exposure to German measles. Mattingly eventually flew to the Moon on Apollo 16.
According to NASA, Epps will be considered for future space missions. Her backup, , according to NASA. She's been replaced by her backup, Serena Auñón-Chancellor. Auñón-Chancellor is said to be the first astronaut of Hispanic parentage to live on ISS. Epps will now return to the United States, following training in Russia with German and Russian counterparts. So far, 14 black American astronauts have gone into space, while some have visited the ISS. Epps would have been the first to actually live there.
Epps used to work for the Central Intelligence Agency and holds a doctorate in aerospace engineering. She was chosen as part of NASA's 20th astronaut class in 2009.