By 2018, NASA alumna Jeanette Epps will become the United States’ first African-American astronaut at the International Space Station (ISS).
Epps will stay at the ISS for six months aboard the Soyuz spacecraft along with other astronauts, mostly Russians. The spacecraft will be launched from Kazakhstan in May 2018. But for Epps, the assignment means that she needs to undergo rigorous training ahead of her scheduled departure.
From CIA to NASA
A former CIA agent, Epps holds an important role in the upcoming mission. She will probably be the only female crew, but Epps said she is not bothered with it at all, the Syracuse reported
“I’m a person just like they are. I do the same work as they do,” Epps said, referring to her experience working in a male-dominated industry.
In a talk she delivered in her alma mater Danforth Middle School, in Syracuse, New York, she said women can do great things in any fields, including space science. She also encouraged young students to pursue careers in science and technology to contribute something important to the community.
The Syracuse native NASA astronaut graduated from Le Moyne College with a physics degree. She then pursued her PhD in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland. Her visit to her alma mater is one of NASA’s ways to inspire and encourage the youth to consider careers in the STEM field.
Epps started her career as a design engineer with Ford Motors before joining the CIA in 2002. She spent seven and a half years with CIA, where she worked as a technical intelligence officer. Epps’ work experiences made her one of the most qualified for the assignment.
In 2009, the New York native joined NASA as one of its astronauts. Over the past years with NASA, she has been working with the agency’s ISS operations arms. Part of her responsibilities at NASA is to provide technical support, troubleshooting various issues that the ISS crew encounter.
Before her deployment at the ISS, she underwent rigorous trainings in various areas to prepare for her ISS mission. She even took wilderness survival training and a Russian language course for this.