How NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps prepared for her space mission

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps is set to become the become the first Black woman to be part of an International Space Station crew. But unlike some billionaires, the path to space was winding and arduous. Below, read about the training and certifications she received to qualify.

T-38 Jet Training

Epps learned how to operate a two-seat, twin-jet supersonic jet trainer used by the military. “A lot of people can design an airplane but don’t know how to fly it. I had to understand how to do both,” she says.

National Outdoor Leadership School

Epps completed a program with NOLS, a nonprofit outdoor education school that teaches participants leadership, risk management, and wilderness skills. The courses teach participants leadership and technical skills, like backpacking, mountaineering, rafting, and wilderness medicine.  Asked what she learned about herself as a leader during the experience, Epps says, “In a group of leaders, I try to make sure that I’m going to get hurt, that I’m going to do the things I need to do to, and then if I can help people, I immediately go to them. If there’s a designated leader, I go to them and ask ‘hey what do you want me to do?’ and contribute that way. I don’t need to be the big leader, I need to do my job well.”



Epps was the second woman to complete the European Space Agency’s three-week, subterranean astronaut training course, Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behavior and performance Skills. “I was going 200 meters down into a cave and it was dangerous. Some people are really good at it and can go really fast. I learned to take it at my own pace and be very conscious of the moves I made,” Epps says.


Winter and Water Survival

Her knowledge of Russian helped her communicate with cosmonaut teammates while training at Star City, learning to change quickly out of a space suit and then jump into water from a high altitude. “I was with about eight guys and we got into our gear and put on our life preservers and then we had to jump into the unknown. It taught me how to enter a situation not knowing exactly how or what is going to happen,” Epps says.