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Jeanette J. Epps
NASA Astronaut
Nationality American
Status Active
Born November 3, 1970 (1970-11-03) (age 50)
Syracuse, New York
Other occupation NASA astronaut

Technical Intelligence Officer at CIA

Technical Specialist at Ford Motor Company
Selection 2009 NASA Group
Missions Boeing Starliner-1

Jeanette Jo Epps (born November 3, 1970) is an American aerospace engineer and NASA astronaut. Epps received both her M. S. and Ph.D degrees in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland, where she was part of the rotor-craft research group and was a NASA GSRP Fellow. She was chosen for the 20th class of NASA astronauts in 2009, graduating in 2011. Epps currently serves as a member of the ISS Operations Branch and has completed analog astronaut missions, including NEEMO 18 and CAVES 19. She is the second woman and first African-American woman to have participated in CAVES.

Early life and education

Jeanette Epps was born in Syracuse, New York, one of seven children born to Henry and Luberta (née Jackson) Epps, Mississippians who moved to Syracuse as part of the Great Migration. She and her twin sister Janet excelled in math and science. She graduated from Corcoran High School in Syracuse and earned a B.S. degree from Le Moyne College and an M.S. and a Ph.D degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland.

Early Research and Career

While pursuing her M.S. and Ph.D at the University of Maryland, Epps was awarded a NASA GRSP Fellowship and went on to publish many academic works which have been highly cited. Her research was focused in the area of materials engineering, which included comprehensive testing of composite swept-tip beams, comparison of analytical models with experimental results for shape memory alloys, and use of shape memory alloy actuators for tracking helicopter rotor blades in-flight.

After graduating, Epps worked in research at Ford Motor Company, then as a Technical Intelligence Officer with the Central Intelligence Agency. Her work at the Ford Motor Company, resulted in a provisional patent involving the application of magnetostrictive actuators to reduce vibrations in the suspension control arms, and later, a US patent for detection of the location of a frontal collision in an automobile. She worked at the CIA for seven years, including deployments to Iraq.

NASA career

In June 2009, Epps was selected as an astronaut candidate for the 20th class of NASA astronauts and later qualified in 2011. Her training included extensive Russian, spacewalk (EVA) and robotics training, along with geology. She has also completed T-38 jet training and has attended the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).

Epps subsequently served as an aquanaut aboard the Aquarius underwater laboratory during the NEEMO 18 undersea exploration mission for nine days starting July 21, 2014. She has also participated in geologic studies in Hawaii. Epps has worked with the Generic Joint Operation Panel as a representative, which included work on crew efficiency on the ISS. This work resulted in the Johnson Space Center Director's Innovation Group Achievement Award in 2013. She has also worked as CAPCOM for Mission Control, including serving as lead CAPCOM, and currently serves in ISS Operations Branch. Epps has also completed training in winter and water survival in Star City, Russia.

On January 4, 2017, NASA announced that Epps would be assigned as a flight engineer to the International Space Station in mid-2018 for Expeditions 56 and 57, becoming the first African American space station crew member, the first African American to launch aboard the Russian Soyuz vehicle, and the 15th African American to fly in space, but on January 16, 2018, NASA announced that Epps had been replaced by her backup Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor, but that Epps would "be considered for assignment to future missions". The reason for Epps' removal was not stated, and NASA spokesperson Brandi Dean said, "These decisions are personnel matters for which NASA doesn't provide information." On January 20, Epps' brother Henry posted a statement on Facebook, since deleted, that "My sister Dr. Jeannette Epps has been fighting against oppressive racism and misogyny in NASA and now they are holding her back and allowing a Caucasian Astronaut to take her place!" Jeanette Epps stated that she could not comment on her brother's post or the reason why she was pulled off the mission, but did state that she has no medical condition or family problem preventing her from flying, and that her training had been successful. The Washington Post stated that "Last-minute crew changes are not unusual at NASA."

In 2019, Epps completed the ESA CAVES training program simulating the demands of exploring unknown terrains, such as to be expected on the Moon and Mars. Epps is the second woman to participate in CAVES, following fellow NASA astronaut, Jessica Meir.

Epps also participates in public speaking and she has been a guest speaker at the University of Maryland multiple times. In 2013, she gave the commencement speech for the A. James Clark School of Engineering's Winter Commencement Ceremony.

She is currently a Member of the Society for Science & the Public, in addition to the AIAA.

On August 25, 2020, NASA announced that Epps would join the first operational mission of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner to the International Space Station. According to The New York Times, Epps "would be the first Black woman to be part of an I.S.S. crew." African-American astronauts were members of space-shuttle crews during ISS construction, until Victor Glover none had become a crew member making an extended stay.

Awards and Honors

Honorary Doctorates

  • 2016 Doctorate of Humane Letters, LeMoyne College, New York
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