In 2009, Jeanette J. Epps became the first Black woman astronaut for NASA. Next year, she’ll make history again as the first Black woman to live and work on the International Space Station for an extended period of time.
NASA announced this week that Epps has been assigned to the Boeing Starliner-1 mission, her first official spaceflight since joining the agency. Prior to joining NASA, she worked as a technical intelligence officer for the CIA.
“Epps will join NASA astronauts Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada for a six-month expedition planned for a launch in 2021 to the orbiting space laboratory,” the organization wrote in an August 25 statement. “The flight will follow NASA certification after a successful uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 and Crew Flight Test with astronauts.
“NASA assigned Williams and Cassada to the Starliner-1 mission in August 2018. The spaceflight will be the first for Cassada and third for Williams, who spent long-duration stays aboard the space station on Expeditions 14/15 and 32/33.”
Epps took to social media to share the news:
“I’m super excited to join Suni Williams and Josh Cassada on the first operational Boeing crewed mission to the International Space Station,” she said in a video shared on Twitter, where she has more than 40,000 followers. “I’ve flown in helicopters with Suni flying and I’ve flown in the backseat of a T-38 with Josh flying, and they are both wonderful people to work with, so I’m looking forward to the mission.”
Back in 1983, Sally Ride became the first woman to fly into space. That same year, U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Guion S. Bluford became the first African American to travel into space.