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  Astronaut Jeanette Epps removed from flight

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Author Topic:   Astronaut Jeanette Epps removed from flight
Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-18-2018 05:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
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Astronaut set to be first African American on space station crew removed from flight

A NASA astronaut who was slated to become the first African American to serve as a member of the crew aboard the International Space Station has been removed from her upcoming mission.

Jeanette Epps, who had been scheduled to launch to the space station in June for a five-month expedition has been replaced on the flight by another NASA astronaut, Serena Auñón-Chancellor, who was serving as Epps' backup.

Neil DC
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posted 01-18-2018 08:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Neil DC   Click Here to Email Neil DC     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am stunned and saddened by the news and feel for Dr Epps. This was an amazing opportunity for her and NASA; the first long duration African American and the potential for an EVA first too. Not far from the finish line, it is quite a while since such a thing happened to an astronaut.

Had a chance to meet her a few years back at Udvar-Hazy. A humble and very personable astronaut. A great role model. We can only wish her well for a new assignment and flight, perhaps on Orion.

cspg
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posted 01-19-2018 04:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I wonder if NASA wouldn't be well advised to provide a reason for her removal even if it's not the real one, say for medical reason, so as to avoid speculation.

Delta7
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posted 01-19-2018 08:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It could very well be due to a temporary medical or personal situation, and that it's a case of maintaining personal privacy.

denali414
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posted 01-19-2018 09:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for denali414   Click Here to Email denali414     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Heart and prayers go out to Jeanette for whatever happened. It has just got to be so soul crushing to be this close to a lifetime dream and not be able to finish. Hope all is well.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-22-2018 03:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Over the weekend, an online petition popped up urging for NASA to reinstate Jeanette Epps. Around the same time, her brother made a post on Facebook (since marked private) that claimed her removal was due to "racism and misogynist [sic] in NASA."

Epps on Monday (Jan. 22) responded to an email from the Washington Post saying that she could not comment on her brother's post or the reason for the crew change and clarified that neither she nor anyone in her family created the petition.

Epps said that she did not have a medical condition or family problem that would have prevented her from participating in the mission and that her overseas training in Russia and Kazakhstan had been successful.

NASA likewise declined to comment about Henry Epps's post but provided a statement saying, "Diversity and inclusion are integral to mission success at NASA and we have a diverse astronaut corps reflective of that approach."

David C
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posted 01-22-2018 03:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't think her brother is doing her any favours at all. However, if this keeps up NASA is going to have to do better than effectively saying "no comment."

SpaceSteve
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posted 01-22-2018 04:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceSteve   Click Here to Email SpaceSteve     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just wondering...

The ISS has an international crew. As such, the other nation(s) involved probably have a say in who is assigned to a crew. Could it be that another nation that is providing the crew for the affected expedition has "requested" that Ms. Epps be removed?

If so, NASA is dealing with an issue that involves international politics and must not say anything that could endanger our international relationships. They (NASA) may not want to remove Ms. Epps from the expedition, but may need to go along with it, in order to save the overall mission.

dom
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posted 01-22-2018 05:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Probably just a stunt pulled my the Russians to gain a petty victory over the CIA. I seriously doubt she was "spying" as there's not much to be discovered at Star City or Baikonur these days. I doubt her membership of that organisation was a problem to the Russians or they would have violently objected to her selection right from the beginning.

Colokent
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posted 01-22-2018 05:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Colokent   Click Here to Email Colokent     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hmm, never thought of the potential CIA association creating a geopolitical issue. That might have something to do with NASA's "stone silence." I feel sorry for her having to disassociate herself from her brother's actions, that can't be helpful for her to have to deal with at this time.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-22-2018 06:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would say the chances that Epps' CIA background had anything to do with her reassignment is next to zilch.
quote:
Originally posted by dom:
Probably just a stunt pulled my the Russians to gain a petty victory over the CIA.
Russia certified Epps to fly on Soyuz MS-07 as Norishige Kanai's backup. Given that and her own statement to the Washington Post that her training in Russia was successful, Roscosmos had no mechanism to remove her from the crew.

garyd2831
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posted 01-22-2018 08:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for garyd2831   Click Here to Email garyd2831     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's all over the news here in Syracuse. I to attended Corcoran HS just a few years after Dr. Epps.

fredtrav
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posted 01-22-2018 10:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fredtrav   Click Here to Email fredtrav     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have to agree with Robert about her CIA work. Can't imagine it causing a problem since she trained as the backup for a mission. NASA and Epps need to come out and say why. I know that is not what is usually done, but in this instance it might be important. This can be a PR nightmare for NASA if the racist, misogynistic theme spreads.

Colokent
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posted 01-22-2018 10:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Colokent   Click Here to Email Colokent     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, rethinking it (and seeing some of the latest comments on here about her previous stint as a backup crew member), I agree that her past CIA affiliation is probably not what is behind this.

While it would be interesting to know what the real reason is, I would encourage NASA to hold to their established confidentiality policies— particularly in the face of an illogical outburst which I feel is frankly disrespectful and embarrassing to the United States, NASA, and Dr. Epps’ many accomplishments.

p51
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posted 01-22-2018 11:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There's simply no way that the real reason, whatever it is, is going to stay a secret.

Not a chance.

cspg
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posted 01-23-2018 04:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Speculation here it comes!! I hate being the I-told-you-so person.

dom
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posted 01-23-2018 05:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To clarify, I'm sure her previous CIA involvement isn't an issue to the Russian space establishment. Just wondering if "higher ups" in the Kremlin vetoed her flight when they realised. Would Putin really want a former CIA agent on the ISS during his presidential election campaign? The optics of that might not fit his FSB inspired anti-western rhetoric.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-23-2018 08:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Again, Russia has no mechanism to remove any space station crew member other than their own, outside of not certifying the person to fly on the Soyuz.

Epps was certified as a Soyuz MS-07 backup. Her training for Soyuz MS-09 was not yet complete, so Russia could not have pulled her from the flight at the point she returned to Houston.

dom
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posted 01-23-2018 09:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The original South Korean cosmonaut was pulled from his flight for an "official" reason unrelated to the real reason...

Astro Rich
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posted 01-23-2018 09:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Astro Rich   Click Here to Email Astro Rich     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think as Chief Astronaut Pat Forrester should release a statement in general terms without violating any NASA policy on the reason behind Epps removal. The silence will continue to fuel speculation, and turn into a media nightmare before long.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-23-2018 09:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by dom:
The original South Korean cosmonaut...
Roscosmos can remove any of their own crew members for any reason(s) they desire (as can NASA or any of the other space station partners of their own crew).

Ko San was a Russian crew member. His flight contract was with Roscosmos and he was not an expedition crew member.

Delta7
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posted 01-23-2018 09:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Could it be a conflict with a crewmate, making them incompatible to spend months together in close quarters? Leroy Chiao and Valery Tokarev were split up as expedition crewmembers due to such a conflict. The difference is that both were re-assigned pretty quickly to expedition crews.

brianjbradley
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posted 01-23-2018 10:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for brianjbradley   Click Here to Email brianjbradley     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
While NASA has pulled astronauts from a crew for flaky (Lee), over-cautious (Thomas) and disciplinary (Gibson, Walker) reasons, I don't think they'd give up the good PR (sounds harsh but true) that Epps was generating very easily.

If not medical (per her comment to WaPo), then maybe there is something in her background that came to light and would have been a bigger PR issue (I am thinking the rumors of why Cagle was never flown).

How disappointing for her so close to flight. You'd think that with the long-term expedition training investment would equate staying on the crew is more secure, whereas Mike Mullane commented on shuttle crews feeling they weren't committed to being on the flight until SRB ignition.

nasamad
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posted 01-23-2018 01:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for nasamad   Click Here to Email nasamad     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Maybe it's something as simple as NASA thinking Epps may need more time to grasp the complexities of the Russian language.

Hoping she'll get a flight assignment soon.

Fra Mauro
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posted 01-24-2018 08:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Could you explain more why Lee was pulled for being flaky?

As for the negative publicity, I think few in our nation are even aware of it. Hey the Oscar nominees were just announced!

Delta7
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posted 01-24-2018 10:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The supposed reason for Lee's removal from STS-98 was some kind of dispute over EVA suits. Let's just say a lot of stuff goes on that most of us never hear about.

The Astronaut Office is not immune from politics and conflict, just as in any office with lots of people. When you piss off the wrong people, you do so at your professional peril.

Skylon
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posted 01-24-2018 05:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I never heard that stuff about suits with Mark Lee. Tom Jones in "Sky Walking" certainly gave no indication of why Lee was reassigned, describing the STS-98 crew as totally blind-sided by it, along with the rest of the Astronaut Office as a whole. Jim Wetherbee (then Chief of the Astronaut Office) apparently got a few pointed questions from fellow astronauts asking to know how Lee had erred, if only for the sake of their future careers, so they knew what to avoid in the future — but no concrete reason was given to them.

Lee seemed to think it was due to his divorce from fellow astronaut Jan Davis though, but none of that ever seemed to be confirmed.

While it may be awhile before the real reason of this ever comes out, I am not sure staying quiet is the best PR move for the Astronaut Office in this case.

Delta7
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posted 01-24-2018 05:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Skylon:
Lee seemed to think it was due to his divorce...
I had heard that it was due to circumstances that led to his divorce, years ago from a pretty reliable source. It ties in with my previous statement about pissing off the wrong people. Blaming the EVA suit issue was either a cover story or the result of speculation, although the dispute was real.

dcfowler1
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posted 01-24-2018 10:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dcfowler1   Click Here to Email dcfowler1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Skylon:
I am not sure staying quiet is the best PR move for the Astronaut Office in this case.
As a government agency, they don't have any discretion. Anything that comes down to a subjective personnel decision is absolutely confidential.

David C
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posted 01-25-2018 02:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Skylon:
Jim Wetherbee (then Chief of the Astronaut Office)
To my knowledge Wetherbee was never Chief of the Astronaut Office. Precourt held that position when the substitution took place.
quote:
Originally posted by Delta7:
Could it be a conflict with a crewmate...
I would guess at some kind of personality clash with someone.

Delta7
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posted 01-25-2018 07:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wetherbee was Director of Flight Crew Operations at the time.

issman1
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posted 01-25-2018 02:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Mark Lee's downfall was a combination of factors, as mentioned by others, but roasting George Abbey in 1987 in Houston could not have helped. Former astronaut Mike Mullane mentions in "Riding Rockets" that no astronaut would dare impugn Abbey privately let alone publicly.

If Colonel Lee knew how Abbey would later maltreat fellow 1984 classmate Blaine Hammond — as everyone within the Astronaut Office did — then it's obvious Abbey got revenge by denying him a swansong mission on STS-98.

Now how any of this relates to Jeanette Epps is anyone's guess. But being employed as a NASA astronaut contains far more mundane perils than just launching or landing.

Michael Cassutt
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posted 01-25-2018 05:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This just doesn't make sense. If Abbey had plans to avenge Lee's 1987 roast — something he actually found amusing, if anyone bothered to ask him — how do you explain Lee's flights in 1989, 1992, 1994, 1997? Who said that Lee's ISS mission was supposed to be his swan song?

The Hammond situation is unrelated — and he had problems with other people at JSC besides Abbey.

brianjbradley
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posted 01-26-2018 06:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for brianjbradley   Click Here to Email brianjbradley     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't think Mark Lee was out of favour with George Abbey (and actually, I feel he might have been an Abbey "Bubba").

According to Tom Jones' book, Lee said to crewmates he was told he was pulled from the crew because of his performance/disagreements when he was Chief of the EVA Branch (planning initial assembly ops) but believed it was more related to circumstances around his divorce. This was why I pointed out the reasoning as being "flaky."

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