NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps has been patient, but her dream of making it into space might finally happen in 2021. If it works out, she'll become the first Black woman to join the crew of the International Space Station for a long-duration mission.
NASA announced this week that Epps has been assigned to the first operational crewed flight of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner. She will join the space agency's Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada for a scheduled six-month stay on the ISS.
Epps was originally assigned to a crew set to launch to the ISS in 2018, but was pulled from the mission. NASA doesn't comment on personnel matters and gave no reason for the change.
Epps took to Twitter this week to say she was looking forward to the mission.
NASA hopes the crewed Starliner mission will take off in 2021, but Boeing's spacecraft is behind in development compared with SpaceX's Crew Dragon, which successfully completed its first crewed demonstration flight in August.
Both companies are part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, which is dedicated to returning astronaut launches to US soil after years of reliance on Russian rockets. Boeing's initial uncrewed Starliner flight was plagued with technical problems and the timeline for its next demonstration launch is unclear.
There is a history of African-American astronauts on space shuttle missions, including Mae Jemison, who became the first Black woman in space in 1992. Notably, Black astronaut Stephanie Wilson visited the ISS multiple times during shuttle missions.
NASA astronaut Victor Glover is currently scheduled to travel to the ISS no earlier than October on the first SpaceX Crew Dragon operational mission. This would make Glover the first African-American astronaut to join the ISS crew for a long-duration mission.