This week I had the honor of bringing NASA Astronaut Jeanette Epps to Weatherford High School. We were able to discuss NASA’s Artemis Mission to the Moon, the importance of STEM education, and the integral role Fort Worth and Texas are playing in the future of space exploration. It was truly wonderful to see the students’ curiosity about the career path of an astronaut and the inspirational advice that Dr. Epps gave the students, pushing them to always strive for the stars.
Dr. Epps is a role model to many; her career path and background undoubtedly inspired the students. She graduated from high school in Syracuse, New York, earned her Bachelor of Science in Physics from LeMoyne College, and got a Master of Science and Doctorate in Aerospace Engineering for the University of Maryland while researching shape memory alloys as a NASA Fellow. Dr. Epps built an exceptional career with Ford Motor Company and then the Central Intelligence Agency.
NASA selected Dr. Epps as one of nine members of the 20th astronaut class in 2009. Her training included Russian Language immersion in Moscow, geologic studies in Hawaii, robotics and more. As a NASA astronaut, she worked on crew efficiency on the space station, Crew Support Astronaut for two expeditions, and lead CAPCOM (communicator) in mission control.
In our discussion with the students, Dr. Epps and I focused on the Artemis Mission, NASA’s mission to send a woman to the moon by 2024. Currently, women only hold 24% of science, technology, engineering and math-related positions in our workforce; I hope that the Artemis mission can inspire more women to go into STEM careers. Furthermore, the Artemis Mission signals an opportunity for the United States to assert its position as the world leader in space. If we do not rise to this challenge, China and Russia will. Our progress is imperative and requires supporting NASA with government funding, which I advocate for consistently as Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee. I have been a strong supporter of NASA and the Artemis Program and was honored to receive the first Artemis mission pin from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in 2019.
Weatherford High School is preparing its students for a future as bright as Dr. Epps’ and for missions as important as Artemis. We also stressed to the students the significance of their hometown in Texas. Fort Worth is the proud home of Boeing and Lockheed Martin facilities – two leaders in research and production of satellites and spacecrafts. Our district is a place of opportunity and innovation, and no one is too young to get involved!
Thank you to Dr. Epps for coming, to Weatherford High School for having us, and to the bright young minds who listened and learned. You are the future.