Jeanette Jo Epps (born November 3, 1970) is an American aerospace engineer and NASA astronaut.
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.
After graduating, Epps worked in research at Ford Motor Company, then as a Technical Intelligence Officer with the Central Intelligence Agency. She worked at the CIA for seven years, including deployments to Iraq.
In June 2009, Epps was selected as an astronaut candidate and qualified in 2011. She subsequently served as an aquanaut aboard the Aquarius underwater laboratory during the NEEMO 18 undersea exploration mission for nine days starting July 21, 2014.
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crew member and the 15th African American to fly in space, but on January 16, 2018, NASA announced that Epps had been replaced by her backup Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor, but that Epps would "be considered for assignment to future missions". African-American astronauts have visited the space station, but Epps would have been the first to live there. 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."