NASA has announced that it has assigned astronaut Jeanette Epps to the first operational crewed flight of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. That mission will launch the astronauts to the International Space Station, where Epps will join NASA astronauts Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada aboard the ISS for a six-month expedition.
The launch is currently planned for 2021 and will follow NASA certification for the Starliner-1 spacecraft after the successful completion of uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 and a Crew Flight Test with astronauts aboard. This will be Epps’ first space mission.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1992 from LeMoyne College and finished a Master’s degree in science in 1994, later earning a doctorate in aerospace engineering in 2000. Epps was a NASA Graduate Student Research Project fellow while earning her doctorate, where she authored several journals and conference articles on her research. She was assigned to the Starlight or-1 mission in August 2018.
Another aspect of this mission that’s important to point out is that Epps will make history as the first black woman to live and work long-term aboard the ISS. There is a possibility that her mission could be postponed or delayed entirely if Boeing’s spacecraft fails any of its required milestones ahead of the launch.
Boeing’s Starliner-1 hopes to follow the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft as a second means of putting American astronauts into space from American soil. Prior to the Crew Dragon being certified to carry astronauts to and from the ISS, America could not put astronauts into orbit since retiring the space shuttle fleet. Currently, only the Crew Dragon is certified to carry astronauts into space.