Astronaut Jeanette Epps was Pulled From Her NASA Assignment; There's Only Speculation as To Why


It was a big deal to many when it had been announced that Jeanette Epps was going to be the "first black crew member to live on board the International Space Station".  On Thursday, January 18th, however, it was announced that she would no longer be going to the International Space Station in June of this year as previously scheduled.  Instead, she would be a candidate for later assignments, while fellow astronaut Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor would be taking her place.


NASA did not make a comment as to why this crew change had occurred, but according to the Washington Post, Epps' brother had accused the organization of racism in a (now deleted) Facebook Post.  He had stated: “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!”  In addition to this statement, he had linked to a petition that is hoping to reinstate Epps on this crew to the ISS.  As of the writing of this post, the petition is hoping to gain 3,000 signatures, and has 2,379 signatures at the current time.


Others had speculated that the crew change could have been due to health or family reasons that NASA would not announce on and that Epps may want to keep private.  However, according to the aforementioned Washington Post article, Epps stated that there had been no health reason or family reason to keep her behind.  She also said that she would not comment on her brother, Henry Epps', post about the situation.  The only thing she did comment on regarding her brother's post was that no one in her family had created the petition he linked to.


It's important to note that Epps' removal from this mission is not something that is an isolated incident.  Many astronauts have been bumped from missions before for various reasons.  Miriam Kramer, writing for Mashable, notes in one of her articles on the situation that NASA's Ken Mattingly was pulled from the Apollo 13 crew just a few days before their scheduled launch because he was exposed to German measles".


There's reason to believe that Jeanette Epps is not going to be excluded from future missions.  Former NASA administrator, Sean O'Keefe, says that these crew changes are common, and most of the astronauts go on to go into space at later dates.  "The exceptions are very few and far between,"  He said. 


It's more than likely that we will not get an official reason from NASA themselves, as they often do not comment on the crew changes.  O'Keefe has a couple speculations of his own, however, as to why Epps was replaced on this particular mission happening in June.  One of them was the idea of a health concern, which as previously stated, Epps debunked herself.  Another, however, stated how Epps and Auñón-Chancellor had different skill sets that may have determined who was better suited for this specific assignment.  "Dr. Epps is an engineer. The astronaut replacing her is a medical doctor. [It] could well be there are now more human factors research projects on the mission manifest than material science research."  Of course, though, he cannot say for sure what the reasoning was for Epps' replacement.



Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of She studies English and is a huge fan of things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.

We Watched the Mars Generation on Netflix - Here's What We Thought


The moon was the first step. Ever since, we've been looking to Mars.


One day, someone will land a foot on Mars. That's what we're heading towards. Science, technology, and people, are all heading the same direction. There will be a generation of people to step on the red planet -- and that will be the Mars Generation.


The Mars Generation is a non profit organization that was founded by Abigail Harrison (better known online as Astronaut Abby) back in 2015.  This year, the program raised over $11K to help send kids in poverty to space camp so that they could learn about STEM, and also to help encourage physical activity. The program itself was something that FemSTEM supported itself, and we were able to help raise $115 towards the cause thanks to our readers.


So, after this was all said and done, I got a chance to sit down and watch the Netflix and TIME documentary on The Mars Generation. Parts of the movie got me excited and riveted, while other parts created somewhat of a lull.


The movie itself has a 6.6/10 rating on IMDb as of the writing of this article.  That's where I would place the movie myself.  Let's talk about the positives first.


Positive Aspects of the Mars Generation


The movie was very good at getting you excited about the prospect of humankind heading to Mars. As the movie pointed out, a lot of people have forgotten that NASA even exists these days. People don't think we're going to be doing anymore space travel, but that, of course, is quite the opposite of what humankind really has planned. It reminded the viewer that NASA had huge plans and that they were taking as many steps as possible towards that plan (even with the tiny amount of government funding they have).


When the documentary showed the children doing their work, the movie was extremely engaging. They captured the failures and successes of these children, which painted them as real people that the average audience member could relate to. This is a great aspect of the film, especially for any children watching from home. To be able to see that these kids -- who are extremely smart -- don't get it right on the first try is great for them. It makes the goal of getting into STEM fields more realistic and attainable.


In general, the editing was very nice as well; it was smooth, consistent, and linear.


Negative Aspects of the Mars Generation


I did not think that the film showed enough of the kids.  The Mars Generation program itself is about sending the next generation off into space to discover the red planet. There was far too much emphasis, in my opinion, on people like Bill Nye and Neil Degrasse Tyson.


The film never made the movie about the older and more experienced scientists, but their commentary gave the film a bit of a lull after a while. I wasn't watching the documentary to hear from them -- I was watching to see the kids, and to watch what they went through in order to make steps to getting to Mars.  I will say that I think the edition of experienced scientists was needed, but I thought that the balance wasn't there.  For me, this was a huge disappointment in the film.


And while I understand it makes for good publicity to have celebrities on your documentary, I can go ahead and watch Bill Nye's new show any time. Or listen to Tyson's podcast. Or watch Michio Kaku on the Science Channel whenever.  It might have been better to have interviewed or heard from people who worked with the kids, or who were astronauts themselves.  And we did hear from them, but not nearly as much as we heard from the celebrity scientists.


Overall, however, the movie was good and worth a watch.



Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of She studies English and is a huge fan of things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.