NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps to become first Black woman living on International Space Station
© NASA

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps will be joining a crewed mission next year to the International Space Station (ISS) in an expedition that will mark a historic first for the space agency.

NASA announced earlier this week that Epps will be part of the agency’s first operational crewed flight of its Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to fly to ISS next year. The launch will make her the first Black woman to live at the station, according to USA Today

A day after the agency’s announcement, Mae Jemison, who was the first Black woman to travel into the space, congratulated Epps on Twitter. 

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“Congratulations to Astronaut @Astro_Jeanette PhD assigned to first operational Boeing crew mission to the International Space Station. And it’s #KatherineJohnson's Birthday. So cool!!!” she tweeted, noting it was also the birthday of the late trailblazing NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson. 

Epps also posted a video on Twitter shortly after the announcement on Tuesday, saying she is “super excited” for the scheduled launch and that she is “looking forward to the mission.”

Epps will be traveling with NASA astronauts Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada for the mission to the space laboratory, which the agency said will last for six months.

While the agency said it will be Epps’s first space flight, the astronaut said in her video on Tuesday that she’s “flown in helicopters with Sunni flying” and “in the backseat of a T38 with Josh flying.” 

Epps, who is from Syracuse, N.Y., has a bachelor’s degree in physics from LeMoyne College and a master’s degree in science from the University of Maryland, College Park, as well as a doctorate in aerospace engineering she received from the same school in 2000.

“While earning her doctorate, Epps was a NASA Graduate Student Researchers Project fellow, authoring several journal and conference articles on her research. After completing graduate school, she worked in a research laboratory for more than two years, co-authoring several patents, before the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recruited her,” NASA said in its announcement earlier this week.

“She spent seven years as a CIA technical intelligence officer before her selection as a member of the 2009 astronaut class,” the agency added.