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NASA Astronaut Jeanette Epps Joins First Operational Boeing Crew Mission to Space Station



NASA astronaut Jeanette EppsCredits: NASA

NASA has assigned astronaut Jeanette Epps to NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 mission, the first operational crewed flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on a mission to the International Space Station.

Epps will join NASA astronauts Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada for a six-month expedition planned for a launch in 2021 to the orbiting space laboratory. The flight will follow NASA certification after a successful uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 and Crew Flight Test with astronauts.

The spaceflight will be the first for Epps, who earned a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1992 from LeMoyne College in her hometown of Syracuse, New York. She completed a master’s degree in science in 1994 and a doctorate in aerospace engineering in 2000, both from the University of Maryland, College Park.

While earning her doctorate, Epps was a NASA Graduate Student Researchers Project fellow, authoring several journal and conference articles on her research. After completing graduate school, she worked in a research laboratory for more than two years, co-authoring several patents, before the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recruited her. She spent seven years as a CIA technical intelligence officer before her selection as a member of the 2009 astronaut class. 

NASA assigned Williams and Cassada to the Starliner-1 mission in August 2018. The spaceflight will be the first for Cassada and third for Williams, who spent long-duration stays aboard the space station on Expeditions 14/15 and 32/33.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems capable of carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and to the space station. Commercial transportation to and from the station will provide expanded utility, additional research time and broader opportunities for discovery on the orbital outpost.

For nearly 20 years, the station has served as a critical testbed for NASA to understand and overcome the challenges of long-duration spaceflight. As commercial companies focus on providing human transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit, NASA will concentrate its focus on building spacecraft and rockets for deep-space missions.

(Astronaut Jeanette Epps is slated to soon be the first black woman to live on the International Space Station. She would have made history earlier in 2018 as the first Black woman to live on the ISS, but was later reassigned for undisclosed reasons.)

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San Antonio Airport Ranked #2 in U.S. by The Wall Street Journal



San Antonio International Airport (SAT) is ranked #2 on The Wall Street Journal’s (WSJ) list of Best Midsize Airports for 2023. SAT jumped up two spots from last year’s #4 ranking and only missed the number one spot by less than a point.

The newspaper’s annual U.S. Airport Rankings rate the 50 busiest airports based on reliability, value and convenience. SAT’s overall score is 70.4, behind San José Mineta International Airport in California, which scored 71.2.

“This is spectacular news about SAT being ranked #2,” said Jesus Saenz, Director of Airports, San Antonio Airport System. “We are always aiming to be the #1 airport. We are so close! Being ranked second best airport shows we are doing a stellar job serving our travelers. We are so proud of our entire team. Their passion for helping people and our strong partnerships with our airlines help us stand out. We’ve had a phenomenal year. We’re up to 45 nonstop destinations – including our first flights to Europe that start in May 2024.”

The WSJ evaluates each airport on 30 factors. Information is gathered from government data and traveler surveys to account for the entire process – from buying a ticket to arriving at a destination. The rankings highlight which airports have the most on-time flights, short waits throughout a traveler’s trip and their favorite amenities.

According to the WSJ, the San Antonio airport ranked:

  • #1 for fast security clearance
  • #2 for taxi/rideshare
  • #6 for flight cancellation

For more information about the rankings, please visit WSJ’s website.

To learn more about San Antonio airport, visit the airport’s website.

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Spirit Airlines Adds Newark, New Jersey as Nonstop Destination for San Antonio 



Spirit Airlines has announced a sixth destination with new nonstop service from San Antonio International Airport (SAT). This time, the ultra-low-cost carrier offers flights to Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), which also serves New York City.

“Spirit keeps succeeding here in San Antonio. Their new service adds to the competition – which leads to even more competitive fares,” said Jesus Saenz, director of Airports, San Antonio Airport System (SAAS). “We’re happy for our travelers, who are finding great deals to travel to several popular destinations. Spirit sees that and is continuing to add more service. Everyone benefits.”

Here are more details about Spirit’s service to Newark from SAT:

  • Daily service
  • Begins April 5, 2024
  • Tickets are on sale now

Spirit began service from SAT in 2022, with flights to Las Vegas and Orlando in November 2022. This year, the airline launched nonstop service to Baltimore and Fort Lauderdale in March. In May, nonstop flights to Los Angeles began.

Flights to EWR will depart SAT at 3:02 p.m. and arrive in Newark at 7:52 p.m. local time. Flights to SAT will depart EWR at 11:07 a.m. and arrive in San Antonio at 2:17 p.m. local time.

“Our San Antonio guests and partners have embraced our low fares and high-value service since day one – allowing us to grow to six nonstop routes next spring,” said John Kirby, Vice President of Network Planning at Spirit Airlines. “The new, nonstop route offers affordable options to explore the Garden State and visit family and friends in Northern New Jersey and New York City Metro area.”

Spirit’s new daily flights will add to SAT’s already existing nonstop service to Newark by United Airlines.

To learn more about SAT’s 44 nonstop destinations, visit (

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Tourism And Hospitality Generates Highest-Ever Economic Impact of $19 Billion in 2022



In a remarkable rebound, the San Antonio tourism and hospitality industry shattered key performance metrics, surpassing pre-pandemic levels with an unprecedented economic impact of $19 billion – a 10% year-over-year increase. The findings, identified by Trinity University professors Richard V. Butler, Ph.D., and Mary E. Stefl, Ph.D., in a study commissioned by Visit San Antonio, the San Antonio Hotel & Lodging Association, the Texas Restaurant Association—San Antonio Chapter and the San Antonio Visitors Alliance, underscore the sector’s undeniable resilience, vitality and importance to the San Antonio region. 

Part of the industry’s historic economic impact includes a notable boost in contributions to the city’s local taxes and fees, soaring to an impressive $262 million. San Antonio has become a beacon of hope, recovering faster than many cities across the United States, as a separate visitation study by renowned national research company, D.K. Shifflet, found that San Antonio attracted 34.8 million visitors and employed over 140,000 individuals – nearly a 10% increase from 2021 figures. 

“There is so much more work to be done, and Visit San Antonio remains steadfast in its commitment to rejuvenating our city’s tourism and hospitality sector, aiming to restore hotel occupancy, city visitation and tourism-supported jobs to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2024 or even sooner,” said Marc Anderson, President and CEO of Visit San Antonio. “The latest record-breaking news of over $19 billion in economic impact and $262 million in city tax revenues for 2022 is immensely gratifying and promises a bright future for our city and its residents.” 

With more than 100 new restaurants and a dozen new hotels opening since the onset of the pandemic, the industry’s total payroll has surged beyond 2019 levels, reinforcing its position as one of the top five economic drivers in the San Antonio region. 

“This is not only a win for our city, but it is a win for the citizens of San Antonio. The positive impact our tourism and hospitality industry has had on our local economy since the start of the pandemic is tremendous,” said Ron Nirenberg, Mayor of the City of San Antonio. “It showcases the remarkable efforts to tell San Antonio’s story to the world.” 

This robust growth exemplifies the unwavering power of tourism and hospitality in shaping the city’s profile and status as the fastest-growing big city in the United States. Visit San Antonio Board Chair, Phil Stamm, emphasized the vital role of tourism and hospitality as key economic drivers and job creators. 

“While we celebrate surpassing pre-pandemic benchmarks in crucial categories, we must unite to further increase business demand in both leisure and meetings and conventions,” Stamm said. “Our industry’s impact extends far beyond San Antonio, generating revenue that propels our city to compete economically with other metro districts.” 

Professors Butler and Stefl’s study lauded the industry’s “impressive” performance in 2022. In response, Visit San Antonio continues to spearhead innovative marketing initiatives, enticing leisure and business travelers from around the globe. The city’s iconic attractions and culinary offerings are being showcased, reaffirming San Antonio’s status as a global destination with immense economic potential. 

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