The existing astronaut corps is now in training for future space station missions. In the following days, rumors have swirled as to why.
NY native Epps was due to blast off onboard a Russian Soyuz flight from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in June, along with ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev. In 2009 NASA recruited her as an astronaut and since then she has risen to the front ranks of the organisation. Henry Epps wrote in a Facebook post that has since been deleted.
Despite mounting pressure from an outraged public, NASA has remained tight-lipped about its reasons for Epps' removal. She did write that no medical condition or family problem was to blame, the Washington Post reported Monday.
NASA itself has kept quiet about the reshuffle. NASA spokeswoman Brandi Dean said Friday it was a decision by NASA, not the Russian Space Agency.
It is not unusual for NASA to rearrange crew members in advance of expeditions.
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In 1970, Ken Mattingly was removed from an Apollo 13 mission where he was supposed to serve as command module pilot.
Chosen as part of NASA's 20th astronaut class in 2009, Epps has a Ph.D.in aerospace engineering and used to work for the Central Intelligence Agency. As of 5:00 a.m. January 23, the petition has more than 1,600 signatures. The duo dawned spacesuits and exited the space station for a 6.5-hour mission on Tuesday morning.
In an email to The Post, Epps said she was not going to comment on her brother's social media comments, nor did she know why she was bumped from the flight.
While the reason for Dr. Epps' dismissal remains unclear, her brother Henry claimed to know the reason. 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).
Aside from having a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from George Washington University, the female astronaut earned her Doctorate of Medicine from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.