Brother of African-American NASA astronaut pulled from historic space station mission blames racism

The brother of NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps, who was scheduled to be the first African-American crew member on the International Space Station (ISS), claims racism is the reason his sister was pulled from the mission.

“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 in a Facebook post Saturday, according to The Washington Post. In addition, he linked to a petition asking NASA to reinstate his sister.

Epps' Facebook post has since been removed.


NASA has not responded to a request for comment from Fox News why Epps was removed from the flight, scheduled for June. The government agency did provide a statement to The Post, however, saying: “Diversity and inclusion are integral to mission success at NASA and we have a diverse astronaut corps reflective of that approach.”

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. She also noted that neither she, nor anyone in her family, created the petition. 

It's not uncommon for crew changes to be made on space flights, even ones that come at the last minute. Ken Mattingly was pulled from Apollo 13 and replaced by Jack Swigert because of exposure to German measles, though he never contracted the disease. Mattingly eventually flew to the Moon on Apollo 16, making him one of only 24 people to go on lunar missions.

Epps will be considered for future space missions, according to NASA. She's been replaced by her backup, Serena Aunon-Chancellor.

Epps is returning to Houston from Russia, where she'd been training to fly to the space station with a German and Russian. NASA spokeswoman Brandi Dean said Friday it was a decision by NASA, not the Russian Space Agency.

Fourteen African-American astronauts have flown into space in total, with some of them having visited the ISS. Epps, however, would have been the first to live there.

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 CIA. 

Auñón-Chancellor, who was also part of the same class as Epps, will be the first Hispanic woman to live on the ISS.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia. This story has been updated to reflect Mattingly never set foot on the Moon, but did go on a lunar mission.