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Astronauts reassigned in surprise crew shuffle

By William Harwood,

Jeanette Epps, a NASA astronaut slated to become the first African-American to make a long-duration stay aboard the International Space Station, has been replaced by an astronaut in training for a later flight, the space agency announced Thursday. No explanation for the unexpected crew shuffle was given.

Epps, a former technical intelligence officer with the CIA who holds a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering, had been scheduled to blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in early June, joining Soyuz MS-09 commander Sergey Prokopyev and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst for a planned 143-day stay in space.

Instead, a NASA release said Epps will be replaced by astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, a fellow space rookie and member of the same astronaut class who had been assigned to a station flight scheduled for launch in November. Astronaut Anne McClain will take Auñón-Chancellor’s place on the Soyuz MS-11 crew.


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