NASA Removes First African American Astronaut Set to be on International Space Station Crew

NASA has bumped an astronaut off an upcoming spaceflight, a rare move for the space agency so close to launch.

Astronaut Jeanette Epps was supposed to travel to the International Space Station in early June.

Late Thursday, NASA announced it was pulling Epps off the mission but didn’t disclose why. Astronauts have been removed from missions in the past, mostly for health reasons.

Epps, 47, an engineer, will be considered for future space missions, according to NASA.

She’s been replaced by her backup, Serena Auñón-Chancellor, a 41-year-old doctor. Both were chosen as astronauts in 2009.

Epps is returning to Houston from Russia, where she had 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.

African-American astronauts have visited the space station, but Epps would have been the first to live there. Space station crews typically stay for five to six months. NASA assigned her to the flight a year ago.

SOURCE: The Associated Press, Marcia Dunn