In May 2018 history will be made thanks to Astronaut Jeanette Epps. NASA has confirmed that Epps will be the first African-American woman to be a crew member aboard the international space station. There have been 14 black astronauts that have been sent into space over the last few decades however they have all returned without actually staying on the space station as a crew member. NASA stated that she will be joining expedition 56 aboard the space station and will also be staying on for expedition 57. The Syracuse, New York native will be a flight engineer for the ISS.
Epps has been training for many years to go up to the space station. She is been an astronaut with NASA since 2009. There have only been 200 astronauts who have been aboard the ISS so she is part of a very elite crew. Before joining NASA she was a technical intelligence officer with the CIA for seven years. Epps has an aerospace engineering PhD which she received from the University of Maryland.
The 46-year-old astronaut has also spent time underwater as an aquanaut. She worked on the Aquarius underwater laboratory for nine days in July 2014. The mission was callled NEEMO18. The purpose of the underwater habitat that is located near Key Largo, Florida is to prepare the astronauts for space exploration. They go through a series of simulated expeditions. Some of the challenges that their bodies face while they are underwater for a week or more at a time are the same challenges that they will face during space exploration so it allows them to see what their bodies can handle and what their limits are.
While Epps is aboard the ISS she will perform a variety of tasks. The flight engineer is responsible mainly for the flight path of the space station but does so much more while on duty. She will regulate the flight, perform maintenance on the craft, and perform experiments while communicating with the scientists back on Earth. She is the eyes and ears of the space station and will ensure that everything is running as smoothly as possible. Interviews with the media are a part of a flight engineer’s duties as well. Some of the most dangerous work that Epps will have to do is the extra-vehicular activities which means working on the outside of the space station.
Let’s all congratulate Epps on her extraordinary accomplishments!