Jeanette Epps made history in 2017 when she was chosen as the first black female astronaut on the International Space Station. 14 black astronauts -- included 3 black women -- have flown missions into space but none stayed in the International Space Station.
Epps, 47, was set for her first historic mission as a crew member on the Space Station in June 2018. The aerospace engineer was scheduled to launch from Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz rocket. But on Thursday, Jan. 18, she was dismissed and sent home from her overseas training in Russia.
The news raised eyebrows in the U.S. and abroad, as NASA issued a brief statement saying that "Jeanette Epps will not be a part of the International Space Station crew". NASA did not give an explanation for the crew change.
Epps was replaced by Serena Auñón-Chancellor, a member of her astronaut class who was scheduled to launch later this year.
As Epps' supporters demanded to know why she was dropped, rumors began to swirl within the tight-knit NASA community that Epps was dismissed due to emotional and personality problems.
The speculation prompted her brother, Henry Epps, to blame racism and misogyny -- not mental problems, for his sister's dismissal.
“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 since-deleted Facebook post on Saturday.
He linked to a MoveOn.org petition asking NASA to reinstate Epps, according to the Washington Post.
Epps joined NASA's astronaut program in 2009. Prior to that, she worked as an intelligence officer for the CIA for seven years.
According to the Washington Post, Epps will return to Johnson Space Center in Houston, where she will be a candidate for future space missions.