It looks like NASA’s Jeanette Epps won’t be joining the International Space Station crew, after all.
Epps was set to become the first Black American crew member on the International Space Station in 2018, but the agency announced Thursday that she had been removed from the mission, according to The Verge. The seasoned aerospace engineer was on track to launch as part of Expedition 56/57 this summer.
Fellow astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor of Colorado will take Epps place instead, an agency press release stated. Meanwhile, the would-be space voyager will assume duties at the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
The space agency’s announcement stopped short of explaining why Epps was removed in the first place.
“A number of factors are considered when making flight assignments [and] decisions are personnel matters for which NASA doesn’t provide information,” an agency spokesperson said in an email, adding that Epps will undergo the next phase of her training in Houston. “She will be considered for assignment to future missions.”
Epps and Auñón-Chancellor were two of 14 astronaut candidates chosen out of nearly 3,500 applicants back in 2009. At least six other Black astronauts have spent time on the ISS, but Epps would’ve been the first African-American to become a long-term crew member.
The mission would’ve also been her first flight in space.