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Astronaut Jeanette Epps still can't tell us why NASA pulled her from historic space mission

Miriam Kramer

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps should be in space right now. But instead, she's stuck on Earth.

In January, NASA unexpectedly announced that Epps — who was set to become the first African-American astronaut to live aboard the International Space Station for an extended period of time — would not be flying to the orbiting outpost in June after all.

No public reason was given for the sudden reassignment, and Epps hasn't said much about the situation until now. 

SEE ALSO: Astronaut expected to be the 1st African-American Space Station crewmember won't fly in 2018 after all

On Thursday Epps spoke out about why she was pulled from the flight during the Tech Open Air conference in Berlin, Germany. 

"Well, people have been removed before, but not in the same fashion that this was done, partially because I was so close to launch and I completed the entire backup flow," Epps said in an interview with journalist Megan Gannon, adding that she had completed all of her tests ahead of launch as well. 

Epps also mentioned that she's still waiting on an explanation about why she was pulled. 

"I don't know when I'll get an answer, and hopefully it will come soon," Epps added. "I'm hoping by the end of the summer."

Controversy has swirled for months over NASA's decision to pull Epps. NASA never explained exactly why Epps was reassigned, fueling accusations that there were racist or sexist motivations behind the sudden change. Epps's brother voiced those concerns in a since-deleted Facebook post just after the NASA announcement.

When reached about Epps's most recent comments, NASA spokeswoman Brandi Dean explained that "flight assignments decisions are personnel matters for which NASA doesn’t provide information.

(You can listen to Epps beginning at 37:00 in the above clip.)

Her mission gained national attention when the space agency first announced that she would become the first African-American astronaut to live and work on the space station in the laboratory's nearly 20-year history. 

Other African-American astronauts have visited the station before, but Epps would have been the first to act as a full crewmember on the $100 billion outpost.

Epps remains a NASA astronaut today, though the agency hasn't publicly announce her assignment to another flight.

After she was pulled from her mission, Epps returned to Houston, Texas and got back to work at NASA's Johnson Space Center, where her colleagues rallied around her. 

"That's part of the surprise that I had coming back. There were a lot of people who were really supportive, former astronauts and people like that, who reached out and were really helpful just talking to me, trying to figure out a way forward and what happened," Epps said. 

"So, in a situation like that, the pleasant thing was some of the people who I never expected to come through and to really have my back in a lot of crazy situations that have happened. I didn't have to do this alone, in other words."

You can read a transcript of Epps's talk on collectSPACE.com.

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