Jeanette Epps, an astronaut for NASA, will be boarding the International Space Station next year, marking the first time in history that a Black woman has lived on the ISS for months at a time. Epps will be joining other astronauts, Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada on Boeing’s Starliner-1 mission as announced by NASA on Tuesday. This mission will be the first operational crewed flight among the Starliner spacecraft for the company.
In 2018, Epps was chosen to fly on the Russian Soyuz rocket to the ISS, however she ended up being replaced by astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor. NASA has still yet to give their reasoning for the change in crew. Throughout history over a dozen astronauts that are African American have gone to space for a short period of time to visit the ISS, but her 2018 mission would have made Epps the first Black crew member to actually live there. In an interview with The Cut in 2017, before she was pulled from the mission Epps stated “It felt like a huge amount of responsibility. There have been three African Americans who have visited ISS, but they haven’t done the long-duration mission that I am undertaking.”
Regardless, this next mission she is set to take next year will finally allow Epps to make that mark in history, as well as her first flight into space since becoming a member of the 2009 astronaut class following her retirement from the CIA. If the orbital flight is successful later this year, the crew will be set to perform a six-month expedition on the ISS sometime in 2021.