In 2018, Jeanette Epps was taken off of a Russian spacecraft that would’ve made her the first woman to go into space for an extended time. But now, she’s going into space on Boeing’s new CST-100 Starliner is going to become the first woman to join the International Space Station Crew (The Starliner is a private capsule that’s going to bring astronauts back and forth from the International Space Center, also known as ISS).

The mission was initially planned for August 2021, but was postponed due to some technical failures. Of course, safety is the first and foremost priority in these plans, and we look forward to seeing them take place in the near future.

“I’ll miss some things on Earth, like friends and family, but I’m going to enjoy my six months in space.”

-Jeanette Epps

In 1983, Guion Bluford was the first of many African Americans to go into space. But as of now, none have been on any drawn-out missions or been a part of the expeditions. Epps is going to be the first, so she is making tremendous strides in history.

If you’re excited to learn more about this trailblazing empowered woman, keep on reading: 

Some Background On Epps

Born on November 3rd, 1970 as Jeanette Jo Epps to a family of seven children, Jeanette and her twin sister always had an extraordinary talent for the sciences and math. 

Her parents, Henry and Luberta, were born in Mississippi. But they moved up north to Syracuse, New York as part of the Great Migration. (The Great Migration marked the movement of six million African Americans from the rural Southern US to the metropolitan Northeast. This process was to avoid poor monetary conditions and horrible racial segregation.)

Epps graduated from LeMoyne College back in 1992 with a physics degree. Afterwards, she continued to obtain a graduate degree in science in 1994 from the University of Maryland. 

While obtaining her Ph. D., she wrote several NASA-related articles. She was also the co-creator of quite a few patents. The CIA recruited her shortly after recognizing how skilled and gifted she is in her field. 

Why wasn’t Epps able to join the Russian space crew mission back in 2018? The public still doesn’t know the answer to this. Epps isn’t entirely sure why this happened either. But she’s certain that she formed decent relationships with everyone there. So she is sure that it wasn’t the choice of her colleagues. 

The only possible answer is that some racist on top of the food chain forced her out. And he may have won that battle, but he lost the war. As Jeanette Epps will in fact go to space, and it will be a great moment in history.

“I want little girls to believe in infinite possibilities. I want them to see me and think, ‘oh, that’s just what women do.'”

-Jeanette Epps

The Second Delay

The New York Times details why exactly the launch was delayed, and how they can move forward:

“Starliner was scheduled to launch… But then events in orbit around Earth intervened. Russia had launched a new space station module, Nauka… But then Nauka’s thrusters inadvertently started firing again, pushing the International Space Station into a spin, revolving around one and a half times before controllers got it back under control after about an hour. The space station appears to have survived no worse for wear from its unplanned gymnastics routine, but NASA managers wanted to take time to make sure…

When it does liftoff, the spacecraft will spend about 24 hours in orbit before it arrives at the space station and docks. Among the goals of this demonstration flight are verification of the power, navigation and communications systems. But the biggest objective is to test the docking system, which remained untested during the first flight.”

So unlike the 2018 delay, this was clearly an accident beyond anyone’s control. It could’ve happened to any launch. But Epps is surely not discouraged, as her dreams will be met faster than we can say, “One small step for woman…”

Creating History

In addition to her already numerous awards, Epps was about to make history with the team of Expedition 56. She would have been able to spend half a year upkeep the space laboratory had she been allowed to go. And she also would’ve been conducting several experiments in space. 

Many people see her being cut from the crew as a snub act. But Epps feels sure that it was a managerial decision- which is something that they need to work on. 

But it’s inspiring that soon enough, Jeanette Epps will be the first Black woman ever to be on an extended space mission. The planned expedition will be Epps’s first space flight. She absolutely deserves to enjoy her space journey after years of:

  • Studying diligently in undergraduate and graduate degrees
  • Briefly working for the CIA
  • And being removed from her first “would-be” venture into space.

Historical Implications

Jeannette Epps’s imminent venture into space is so important for so many reasons. First, she’s breaking through ceilings that were previously put over women as a whole. And these were held over Black women for even longer. 

Secondly, her dedication to her field, intelligence, and success is an inspiration to women. It shows us how we are capable of much more than the patriarchy would want you to believe.

And frankly, we just need this to finally happen. Especially in this embarrassing age of billionaire space wars, we need our children to know they don’t have to be Jeff Bezos to go to space. Each and every one of us, regardless of where we come from or how we look, has the potential to do something amazing. This is not a world where we need predetermined limits, because that’s only meant to keep us out. Instead, we need more people like Jeanette Epps to destroy the glass celling, and show us all what is really possible.

Are you interested in more empowered women in space?