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NASA Astronaut Dr. Jeanette Epps has been abruptly grounded.

Epps was on track to become the first African-American to travel through space and live on the International Space Station for an extended six-month assignment.

But now that Epps has been abruptly pulled from the NASA mission, Epps’ brother says “racism” is the reason why his sister will be sitting behind a desk in Houston instead of riding a space shuttle and making history.

Henry Epps, Jeannette’s brother, shared a MoveOn.org petition on his Facebook page, calling for Epps to be reinstated to the NASA mission. The petition had 406 signatures Sunday night.

“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 wrote on Facebook.

“We have lost all of the gains we gained over the past 40 years in one year? No more!” he said. “We cannot continue to tolerate what is going on in America but we must stand together and stand behind our people and our nation! Take a stand and sign the petition! Thank you!”

NASA announced that Epps would be replaced on the June mission but did not explain why. According to some media reports, it’s rare for NASA to remove an astronaut so close to a space mission. Epps was one of a few African-American women to be trained by NASA for space travel.

Epps has been replaced by her backup, Serena Auñón-Chancellor, a 41-year-old doctor. The NASA statement said Epps will remain with NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“A number of factors are considered when making flight assignments; these decisions are personnel matters for which NASA doesn’t provide information,” said Brandi Dean, a spokesperson for NASA, in an email to The Verge.

NASA’s decision is nonetheless a disappointment for many African-Americans – and many Black women – who have been following Epps’ career. Many have been cheering for Epps, 47, an engineer and role model for Black girls interested in STEM fields.

In an interview with Elle magazine last year, Epps said, “I get very excited when I think about being up in space, partly because I compare it to going into a war zone.”

“Both are very dangerous but, for me, it’s a no-brainer: I would rather face the dangers in space than go back to a war zone,” she said.

“When people come back from space,” Epps added, “I see how much they want to go again.”

NASA has trained other Black astronauts for space missions – mostly Black men.

Maj. Frederick D. Gregory, Col. Guion and the late Ronald McNair were the first Black astronauts to join NASA’s elite Space Shuttle program ranks in 1978.

Col. Bluford became the first African-American in space after flying on a mission aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger. Maj. Gregory is the first African-American to pilot an orbiter craft and also the first to command space shuttle missions in 1985 and 1989.

According to NASA’s website, Epps was born in Syracuse, New York. She joined NASA in 2009 as an astronaut. Epps worked for Ford Motor Company and then joined the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for seven years working as a Technical Intelligence Officer before becoming an astronaut.

Epps earned a Bachelor of Science in physics at LeMoyne College in 1992 and earned a Master of Science and Doctorate of Philosophy in aerospace engineering at the University of Maryland in 1994 and 2000.

Former NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe – now a Syracuse University professor -– said Epps could still get a chance to travel in space with NASA.

“Crew changes aren’t unusual and when they do happen, the reassigned astronauts almost always fly on a later mission,” O’Keefe told reporters. “The exceptions are very few and far between.”

Only time will tell.

What do you think?

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27 thoughts on “Was Racism The Reason A Black Astronaut Was Grounded?

  1. Mrknowitall on said:

    Systemic, institutional racism AKA “affirmative action” was the only reason this black women was recruited to be an astronaut. If she were both European American & a man, he/she wouldn’t have been chosen.

    • African American Woman on said:

      There’s a lot of foolish idiots out here too and you sound like their leader…Her brother is not HER…Many, too many, black people cry racism when they don’t get their way…Until she addresses it, its a no go.

  2. specialt757 on said:

    I agree, there is not enough information in this column to make a determination of whether her race played a role in the reassignment. I do however, note that a petition was signed by 406 “people”, maybe they know something we don’t. As far now, I’m going to table by comment, because I can’t call it. Get me some more facts.
    SN: What woman volunteers to live on a space station for six months? Okay, maybe someone not as vane as me, but I don’t want to be anywhere I can’t walk freely to get my skittles lol. You can tell I’m fat right? hahaha jk

  3. Conrad K Amerson on said:

    I personally do not see racism here. Is it possible? Very!!! However,there is no evidence to support this claim.

    As a writer alluded to earlier, Ms. Epps is not saying a word, thus there’s something that we do not know, that’s not being told.

    My first thought was, “that Donald Trump”…u know, kind of like President Obama was being blamed for any and everything that went wrong.

  4. Who knows what really happened. Because she was reassigned does not necessarily mean racism. Get all the facts before you call it racism. When its really racism it won’t be believed or be taken seriously.

  5. Mac Ben on said:

    So…they weren’t racist enough to stop her from becoming an astronaut and working at NASA but they are racist by not allowing her to go on this particular mission? Did she join to be “the first black…” or did she join because she wanted to be an astronaut??

      • Mac Ben on said:

        Whoopsie! Did you mean happenstance— asshole? Don’t ever try to get too cute with me without knowing what the hell you are talking about.

  6. Pretty simple, if it was something medical, psycological, they are banned from publicly discussing it. Privacy issues. Since SHE hasn’t said a word, i have to believe there was a reason.
    Replacing with a white comment was race baiting because Latinos are white when it comes to using them to”prove” racisim …. how many black female astronauts are there behind her?? Not many i think.

  7. Tim Green on said:

    Nothing more dangerous than hollering racism while providing ZERO evidence to support it. Is she the only astronaut thats ever been replaced? NO.. the fact that she was “replaced by a white person” isnt any type of proof in & of itself … Over use of the race card has turned shit into the “crying wolf affect” when a situation really does occur noone believes it because “black people call racism whenever things dont go their way”

      • Tim Green on said:

        Richard Edwards how often have you heard of blacks hollering racism with ZERO PROOF/EVIDENCE then when the facts come out look like complete fucking idiots because the shit didnt add up?? … as a middle aged black man ive lived and learned that unless I can tangibly OBJECTIVELY prove something is racist/discriminatory to go on about my life because I do noone any good getting into my feelings about something if i cant PROVE IT

      • African American Woman on said:

        Thank you Tim…every time I hear RACISM being screamed out as an excuse for every thing that goes wrong in black folk’s lives, I get instantly annoyed. Guess what folks? Sometimes, adversity is just that, adversity…the racism tribal call is worn out…the astronaut in question hasn’t said a word…she’s probably too busy doing important work.

    • You do know that there are roughly 14 black astronauts who have traveled to space, including the ones killed in space shuttle disasters, right? It’s just wrong headed to see race as the reason for every perceived slight. We don’t even know why she was reassigned. Unless you know something us mere mortals don’t

  8. African American Woman on said:

    Who knows what happened…I’m sure there are rigorous standards for a person to be fit to fly and stay in space…why do we run to racism for every thing that doesn’t go our way? Its cloudy out which makes me unhappy…Mother nature is racist!

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