NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps will become the first African American space station crew member when she launches on her first spaceflight in May 2018. She will join veteran astronaut Andrew Feustel as a flight engineer on Expedition 56, and remain on board for Expedition 57 on the International Space Station. Feustel will launch in March 2018 for his first long-duration mission, serving as a flight engineer on Expedition 55, and later as commander of Expedition 56. He will be joined in May by first-flight astronaut Jeanette Epps.
“Each space station crew brings something different to the table, and Drew and Jeanette both have a lot to offer,” said Chris Cassidy, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “The space station will benefit from having them on board.”
Dr. Epps was selected in July 2009 as 1 of 14 members of the 20th NASA astronaut class. Her Astronaut Candidate Training included participating in NEEMO (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operation), geologic studies in Hawaii, and language immersion in Moscow as well as continued training in EVA (spacewalk training), robotics and T‐38 jet training. While waiting for a mission assignment Dr. Epps served as a representative to the Generic Joint Operation Panel working on crew efficiency on the space station as well as other topics, served as a Crew Support Astronaut for two expeditions, and served as lead CAPCOM in mission control.
Epps graduated from Thomas J. Corcoran High School, Syracuse, New York in 1988. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Physics in 1992 from LeMoyne College, a private Jesuit college in Syracuse, New York, not to be confused with the HBCU LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis, TN. She then earned a Master of Science and Doctorate of Philosophy in Aerospace Engineering, University of Maryland, 1994 and 2000.
While earning her doctorate, Epps was a NASA Graduate Student Researchers Project fellow during graduate school, and authored several highly referenced journal and conference articles describing her research. Her graduate research involved extensive testing of composite swept‐tip beams, comparative analysis of analytical models and experimental data for shape memory alloys and the application of shape memory alloy actuators for tracking helicopter rotor blades.
After completing graduate school, Dr. Epps spent more than two years working at Ford Motor Company as a Technical Specialist in the Scientific Research Laboratory. Before leaving Ford, she completed proof‐of‐concept work on using magnetostrictive actuators to reduce vibrations that enter a vehicle via the suspension control arms, which resulted in a provisional patent. Also while at Ford, Dr. Epps participated in research involving automobile collision location detection and countermeasure systems, which resulted in the granting of a U.S. Patent. In 2002, Dr. Epps joined the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) where she spent more than 7 years working as a Technical Intelligence Officer. She received multiple performance rewards for her work at the CIA.