The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been dragged into racism row after Jeanette Epps, who was to become the first black crew member to live on board the International Space Station long-term, was removed from her June flight.
She is now being replaced by Serena Aunon-Chancellor.
Henry Epps, Jeanette’s brother, took to his social media page over the weekend accusing NASA of racism.
“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 wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday, according to reports.
NASA has not given any explanation for Jeanette’s removal, but hinted that she would be considered for future missions.
“Diversity and inclusion are integral to mission success at NASA and we have a diverse astronaut corps reflective of that approach,” NASA said in a statement cited by The Washington Post.
Jeanette has yet to respond to her brother’s racism comments, but she did reveal that neither family nor health issues were responsible for her removal.
Jeanette’s brother has started an online petition demanding NASA to return his sister to ISS Mission. The petition currently has about 1,573 signatures.
In an interview with The New York magazine last year shortly after her ISS mission was announced, Jeanette said she felt a huge amount of responsibility and said she wanted young people to know that a lot of hard work went into achieving her position.
“There have been three African-Americans who have visited ISS, but they haven’t done the long-duration mission that I am undertaking,” she told the magazine. “I’ll be the one spending the longest time on the ISS. As a steward, I want to do well with this honor. I want to make sure that young people know that this didn’t happen overnight. There was a lot of work involved, and a lot of commitment and consistency. It is a daunting task to take on.”