Doctor of Philosophy in Aerospace Engineering, Astronaut Jeannette Epps, was recently pulled out of the crew list that will board the International Space Station for the Expedition 56/57 by NASA, without any explanations.
On January 18, NASA released his updated Crew Assignments for Space Station Missions, in which without giving any particular reason, they announce that M.D. Astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor will be replacing Astronaut Epps in the Expedition 56/57.
Serena was thought to fly on the Expedition 58/59 crew. Jeannette is going back to Houston’s NASA’s Johnson Space Center to work in the Astronaut Office.
A caring brother left speechless
The announcement has caused many types of reactions, being the most recurrent one – the same Jannette’s family had – a call to racism. Jeannette’s brother, Henry Epps, humiliated by this event, decided to make a statement on his Facebook account blaming NASA of corporate racism, saying:
“My sister Dr. Jeannette Epps has been fighting oppressive racism and misogyny in NASA and now they are holding her back and allowing a Caucasian Astronaut to take her place!”
To which the NASA responded:
“Diversity and inclusion are integral to mission success at NASA and we have a diverse astronaut corps reflective of that approach.”
The post made by Henry was deleted. A petition was created on MoveOn.org to make Jeannette part of the crew again, and even though the family signed it, they have all declared that none of them started it. Jeanette would be the first African-American woman to be part of the space station crew, just as now Serena will become the first Hispanic woman to be part of the space station crew (his father was Cuban, exiled in the USA).
Since NASA has not released any information about this swap, Jeannette has not given any official statement about the specific reason either. However, she explains via email to The Washington Post that she could not make any comments about her brother’s Facebook post, but she clarified that she did not have any medical or family problem that prevented her from flying, and commented on her successful training in Russia and Kazakhstan.
Will NASA ever explain what happened?
Henry Epps calls out NASA, asking for explanations about the announcement, saying her sister fought over the years the misogynist and racist corporation, but Jeannette keeps a low profile when it comes to addressing the rumors that have been going around, discussing only objective references.
It is very confusing for the world the fact that if Jeannette was fighting against this oppressive racism, she has not addressed the issue directly, perhaps due to a professional attitude. But an answer is being demanded and so far, former NASA Administrator, San O’Keefe, has explained that these crew changes are frequent, that the astronauts replaced still get to fly on future missions.
O’Keefe also says that the reasons, though never given by the NASA (if medical or personnel due to privacy protection politics), usually lay on factors that the crew reconsidered regarding benefits for the mission. The New Tork Upstate quotes the division of the 28 experiments on the Expedition 56/57:
“Of them, 12 are designated as human research, three are physical science, two are educational activities, five are earth and space science, and six are about technology.”
Source: The Washington Post