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  Astronaut Jeanette Epps removed from flight (Page 1)

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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
collectSPACE
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 PM     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 PM     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."

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-21-2018 03:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Jeanette Epps was a guest at the Tech Open Air technology festival in Berlin this morning (June 21), where she was interviewed by journalist Megan Gannon.

The following transcript, prepared by collectSPACE, captures Epps' comments with regards to her removal and current status.

Before we get into your background and your training, I feel like we really need to address the elephant in the room, which is that you're supposed to be in space right now. So can you tell us about the mission that you were supposed to be on?

I was supposed to launch this past June 6 to do about a six month mission and around December I was removed from flight after completing all the backup flow in Baikonur and in Star City and completing all of that.

This was supposed to be your first flight, right? You were selected as an astronaut in 2009, you've been training for a long time and you've been waiting to go to space. This was going to be your first flight?

I joined the astronaut corps in 2009 and went through two years of astronaut candidacy. We all graduated in November 2011. So we went through all of that training and I've been training ever since.

As far as being assigned, you have to be certified in all areas, the spacewalk training, robotics, Russian language, and so by the time you are assigned, especially after waiting eight years, or seven years, you're pretty much ready when it comes to the Houston training. And then once you're assigned, you have to go over to Russia. I did language immersion and then went over to Star City to start training. And then you also go to Germany, to Cologne in particular, and Japan, and you have to do all the training there as well.

So it was in January that you got pulled from the mission?

That was when the public announcement came out.

What can you tell us about what you know about why you were taken off?

I can't speculate in this forum why that was done, but it was a decision of my management and it is something that we're going to try to work through. I'm back in the corps now, I am working on the NASA Orion program, which is really the Space Launch System, which is a mission to go back to the moon to build a lunar orbital platform called the Gateway, and to basically get astronauts back to the moon and develop technologies there that would help take us to Mars. I'm still flying the T-38, I'm still capcom'ing in Mission Control, and so I am just back in the office during the same things that I was doing for the eight years I was waiting for a mission.

So has something like this happened before where a crew member is taken off the mission and no real reason is given for it?

Well people have been removed before, but not in the same fashion that this was done, partially because I was so close to launch and I completed the entire backup flow. We pass all of the exams in Star City and then Baikonur was really what you get to do after you pass all of your exams in Star City.

I passed everything in Cologne for the specialist. I was trained to the specialist level for the Columbus module on the space station. And I did the same thing in Japan, in Tskuba, where you train to the specialist level for their module on the ISS, which the JEM module. So with all of the training I had done and completed in Houston, Russia, Germany, Japan, everything was completed.

And so to be removed while you're in Russia and different things like that, it hadn't been done. Other people had been removed because of a medical thing, an accident. One person broke a hip and had to be removed from flight, of course. But I didn't have any medical conditions or anything like that. And I didn't have any family issues at all, either.

Do you know when you might get an answer about what happened? Is there any kind of internal investigation going on?

I don't know when I will get an answer, and hopefully it will come soon. I am hoping by the end of the summer. Because I think what is happening soon is that we're going to run out of Soyuz seats, because we are building commercial crew vehicles through Elon Musk's SpaceX and through Boeing. Those ships are to take astronauts to space. We have a SpaceX Dragon that takes logistics up to space, but the next follow-on, he's going to take our people up to space.

So with that happening, we won't need the Soyuz any more. So we will have fewer and fewer seats on the Soyuz. And so I am not sure if in the future, if I am assigned a mission, it will be on a Soyuz even though all the training for Russia has been completed. It was phenomenal training.

Do you even know who made the decision? Is it possible it could have been a political decision. Do you even know it was NASA or possibly the Russian partners?

I seriously do not believe it was the Russians, our Russian colleagues, partly because I've been through the training with them and I think I was able to develop really good working relationships with everyone there. A testament to that is that I think some of the people there may have known that NASA was thinking of doing this, but they were adamant that I had to complete all of the training, even down to out in Baikonur, doing the leak check for the suit that was made for me. And the seat liner that was made for me. They wanted to check everything and check it inside the Soyuz, so they know if and when I fly that my suit fit was good and the seat liner that they made for me was a good fit, so I would be comfortable in the right seat of the Soyuz.

There were even several Russians who defended me, in the sense that it is not safe to remove someone from a crew that has trained together for two years, or for a year at least, and went through all of the final exams and things like that. So for safety reasons, I think some people, especially the Russians, were a little concerned.

Besides that, I don't know where the decision came from and how it was made, in detail and at what level.

I think a lot of people were really excited for your mission, in part because you were going to be the first African American crew member to live on the space station in its, what, almost 20 year history of having astronauts continuously living there orbiting Earth? And because there hasn't been any reason given, a lot of people have been left wondering if this was ultimately like a racist or sexist decision. Is that something you are wondering too?

It is something that I live with every day and I don't live with it thinking about it every day. To me, I think as with anyone who is a professional, the goal is get to the job done and do as well as your colleagues and make sure you are a contributing member to whatever team you're in and make sure you are doing your part, and if things do happen, you can participate and make sure things get back on track as a crew, as a teammate, as a person living on the station no matter what happens, you are part of the team. And you want to really make sure everything is done.

To me, within that framework, there's no time to really be concerned about sexism and racism and things like that, because we have to perform. And if comes into play, then you're hindering the mission and you're hindering the performance. So whether or not it is a factor, I can't speculate what people are thinking doing into this forum unless I have a little bit more information. I don't want to speculate what people are thinking, especially in this forum, because to me, it takes away from the mission and the things we are trying to do. And if that is the reason that things like this have happened, to me it is even worse.

I kind of ignore a lot of stuff and I don't speculate, so I don't know what to say that at this point. It is something that a lot of people have asked me and I haven't commented yet and so I am waiting to see what comes of all of this.

So what has it been like getting back to work after all of this?

Getting back to work, it is like business as usual. Getting back in the T-38, doing the same things, we have requirements of so many hours that you have to fly per quarter. Getting back to working in Mission Control as the capcom. Trying to make sure I am getting back in the pool at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab and working on spacewalk training. And really that is the primary thing, and apart from that you have a regular job. My regular job is work in the exploration branch where the Orion is being developed.

That's basically it. I do know getting back was interesting because working with my trainers, a lot of them were really concerned. They thought something might have happened to me because we never saw this coming. So it has been an interesting experience to see the response and the impact that this whole thing has had on other people. And of course I am impacted, but to know that other people are impacted, too, it was a pleasant surprise, even despite everything that has happened. I didn't know that people felt that way, if that makes sense.

I imagine that is a frustrating experience to go through something like this and not have a lot of answers. It must be a little isolating in general to just be an astronaut, because you are part of such a small club, and as an astronaut who is also a woman of color, you're part of an even smaller club. So when you're going through something like this, where there are not a lot of people who can understand your experience, how do you take care of yourself? Who do you have to lean on for support?

That is part of the surprise that I had coming back. There were a lot of people who were really supportive, former astronauts and people like that, who reached out and were really helpful just talking to me, trying to figure out a way forward and what happened. So in a situation like that, the pleasant thing was some of the people who I never expected to come through and to really have my back in a lot of crazy situations that have happened. I didn't have to do this alone, in other words. So I was very happy that I found out that I had more friends than I thought, and I think going through something like that you kind of realize who you're real friends are. And it is important to know that because it is interesting and different and difficult to go through. So having people like that really helps.

dom
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posted 06-21-2018 04:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Very curious. Maybe I owe the Russians an apology, as it appears they really did have nothing to do wih it?

brianjbradley
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posted 06-21-2018 05:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for brianjbradley   Click Here to Email brianjbradley     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That was a very brave conversation for her to have. Cheers to Dr. Epps.

p51
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posted 06-21-2018 06:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I guess I am even more confused now.

From a PR standpoint, I can't believe NASA PR thought it was a great idea having her speak, knowing this was going to be the focus of the interview.

I wonder how smart it was for her career to do the interview, even though she clearly gave "safe" answers all along. She even went out of her way to make the Russians look decent.

I utterly refuse to accept she hasn't been given any reason for the removal after all this time. Many (or maybe most) of us have talked with other astronauts to know that most wouldn't just accept this with no answer at all, especially so close to a launch date.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-21-2018 06:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Her removal wasn't the focus of the interview; it was only a part of it (the part that was relevant to this thread).

And I think Epps had the right idea: it serves little good to speculate about what is or isn't being said.

cosmos-walter
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Posts: 679
From: Salzburg, Austria
Registered: Jun 2003

posted 06-22-2018 05:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cosmos-walter   Click Here to Email cosmos-walter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
During my Star City GTC Tour a year ago Jeanette Epps trained for Soyuz MS-08.
When I met Oleg Artemiev early this January, he regretted that her flight was postponed to Soyuz MS-09. The reason was additional training needed for an EVA.


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