Jeanette Epps, first African American on ISS
Epps previously worked as a Technical Intelligence Officer for the CIAREUTERS/NASA/Handout

Earlier in January, Nasa assigned two astronauts - Andrew Feustel and Jeanette Epps - to its ISS (International Space Station) expeditions scheduled for early 2018.

While Feustel, a veteran of space shuttle missions, will be on his third space flight in March, it is Jeanette Epps, first-time spacefarer, who has got the attention of many. During her Expedition 56/57 mission in May, Epps will become the first African American to board the International Space Station.

Born in Syracuse, New York, Epps got her bachelor's degree in physics from LeMoyne College in Syracuse (in 1992), followed by Master's of Science (in 1994) and doctorate (in 2000) in Aerospace Engineering from University of Maryland.

After completing her graduate school, Epps joined Ford Motor company as a Technical Specialist in the Scientific Research Lab. There, she participated in several types of research including one that got her a US patent and involved detection of automobile collision location and countermeasure systems. Then, two years after joining Ford, the rookie astronaut took a giant leap and worked at the Central Intelligence Agency (starting 2002) for over seven years as a Technical Intelligence Officer.

Finally, in 2009, the big day came and Epps joined Nasa's ranks as 1 of 14 members of the 20th astronaut class of the agency. She learned the Russian language, spacewalking, robotics, wilderness survival during her rigorous training, and also served as a representative to the Generic Joint Operation Panel and Crew Support Astronaut for two expeditions.

She has now been assigned to serve as Flight Engineer for Expedition 56/57 and will be leaving in May 2018.