Astronaut Jeanette Epps is all set to create history by becoming the first black woman to join an International Space Station (ISS) crew. The US space agency NASA has signed Epps for its Boeing Starliner-1 mission to the ISS in low Earth orbit. The Starliner-1 mission will be the first operational crewed flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the ISS. The mission is scheduled for launch in 2021. It will have four astronauts on board. This will only be the fourth US spaceflight with a female commander. The three were STS-93, STS-114, and STS-120. It will follow a certification by NASA only after a successful uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 and later a crew flight test with astronauts.
NASA expects that the mission will take off as per the schedule but Boeing’s spacecraft is still under development. Notably, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon has recently completed its first crewed demonstration flight. Epps will join astronauts Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada for a six-month stay at the space station in low Earth orbit. This will be her first spaceflight. Epps was originally assigned to an ISS crew that was set for a launch in 2018. But she was pulled from the mission. NASA didn’t give a reason for its decision two years back. Epps said that she was looking forward to the mission. Both Williams and Cassada have welcomed Epss to the team.
The space agency had in August 2018 assigned Williams and Cassada to the mission. The spaceflight will be third for Williams and first for Cassada. Epps graduated in Physics in 1992 from a college in her hometown Syracuse in New York. In 1994, she earned a master’s degree in science and a doctorate in aerospace engineering in 2000. Epps was also a NASA Graduate Student Researchers Project fellow. She had previously worked in a research laboratory for two years. She was also recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency. She spent seven years as a CIA technical intelligence officer. In 2009, Epps was selected as a member of the 2009 astronaut class.