Jessica Finn and Matthew Wright, Daily Mail, January 23, 2018
The brother of the NASA astronaut who was bumped from a June mission to the International Space Station, is citing racism as the motive for the change.
Jeanette Epps was replaced by Serena Auñón-Chancellor as NASA gave no explanation but her brother claims that she has had an uphill battle with NASA.
‘My sister Dr. Jeannette Epps has been fighting against oppressive racism and misogynist in NASA and now they are holding her back and allowing a Caucasian Astronaut to take her place!’ Henry Epps said in a Facebook post according to Newsweek.
The post — which has since been deleted — included a link to a MoveOn.org petition demanding Epps be reassigned to the mission.
The petition called ‘Demand NASA to return Dr. Jeanette Epps Back To ISS Mission !!!’ as of Monday had 1,222 of the 2,000 signatures needed.
And while Henry didn’t start the petition, he and other members of the family did sign it.
‘My sister deserve a chance just life [sic] her white peers! This administration policies and culture is reprehensible against their stance against women and minorities in this nation. We have lost all of the gains we gained over the past 40 years in one year?No more!’ he wrote on Facebook.
‘We cannot continue to tolerate what is going on in America but we must stand together and stand behind our people and out [sic] nation!’
The decision to bump Jeanette Epps was said to be a ‘personnel matter’ but many noted how uncommon it was for NASA not to give details as to why a change occurred.
She will now stay on the group in Houston and work at the Johnson Space Center.
NASA added that she could still be selected for later missions.
NASA bumped the astronaut slated to be the first African-American resident on a Space Station off an upcoming spaceflight, in a rare move for the space agency so close to launch.
She was supposed to rocket away in early June.
Brandi Dean, a NASA spokesperson, said last week several factors were considered, but could not elaborate further.
‘These decisions are personnel matters for which NASA doesn’t provide information,’ Dean told collectSPACE.com.
Dean added on Friday the decision to remove Epps from the mission was a NASA decision, not the Russian Space Agency’s.
Meanwhile, the astronaut is returning to Houston from Russia where she had been training to fly alongside a German and a Russian.
News of Epps historic residency at the International Space Station was widely reported after NASA made the announcement in January of 2017.
‘Next year, astronaut Jeanette Epps will add her name to an exclusive list of women who have traveled to space,’ Woman’s Day reported in it’s 80th birthday issue in September.
‘After almost a decade of training in robotics and the Russian language — so that she can communicate with the cosmonauts on her mission — she will become the first African American woman to live and work long-term at the International Space Station.’
Epps’ journey to becoming an astronaut was epic. In 2002 she joined the CIA and worked as a technical intelligence officer, before NASA chose her with its 20th astronaut class.
‘I did think about being an astronaut, but I never thought that they would take me,’ Epps said in December, during a press conference, according to Fox News.
‘So I decided to become an engineer. Through that route I made it into the astronaut corps.’
‘I did a lot of studying — I went through graduate school, undergrad and graduate school — 11 years,’ Epps added. ‘I did a lot of work in school and then I worked for a motor company and then I worked for the government. I’ve been with NASA for about eight years or so. It is a long road.’
She was chosen in 2009 to join NASA, and over almost a decade she trained in robotics and the Russian language, to be able to communicate with fellow cosmonauts on a mission.
Fellow African American astronauts have visited the station on missions, including Robert Curbeam, Alvin Drew, Joan Higginbotham, Leland Melvin, Robert Satcher and Stephanie Wilson, but none have lived there.