On September 9th, 2022 at the National Space Council, Vice President Harris announced an initiative to excite and unite us about the future of the space workforce. The release of the Interagency Roadmap to Support Space-Related STEM Education and Workforce emphasizes administrative actions “to bolster our nation’s capacity to inspire, prepare and employ a diverse and inclusive space workforce.” Some of these actions include:
Increasing awareness of the wide range of space careers.
Providing resources and opportunities to better prepare job seekers for the workplace.
Placing a focus on strategies to recruit, retain and advance professionals of all backgrounds in the space workforce.
Vice President Harris also announces a new coalition of space companies whose purpose will be to help the space industry meet its demand for skilled workers in the various fields that it encompasses. Additionally, numerous new efforts are being put into effect to promote more STEM education, most of which emphasize more hands-on learning. This is particularly important in inspiring students about space exploration and potential career opportunities. Together these initiatives highlight the exciting potential around the future of the space industry, especially with an incoming diverse group of young people that will soon occupy the field and push space exploration forward.
As Vice President Harris touched on, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) are crucial to the progression of the space industry and the various careers it has to offer. The greatest achievements in space exploration have been thanks to the collaboration of diverse groups of people who have brought in their various experiences and expertise. For example, female JoAnn Morgan, was one of the few key people behind the moon landings. She was the instrumentation controller for Apollo 11, which put her in charge of guiding the computers at the Central Instrumentation Facility and the communication and TV broadcast systems. Meanwhile, Project Mercury, the first human spaceflight program of the US, was achieved with the help of a Black female mathematician, Katherine Johnson. She calculated the trajectories, emergency return paths, and launch windows for this mission, making it very successful. Gender and racial representation within space exploration is just one part of expanding diversity, but it is individuals like these women and their opportunity to excel in a male-domianted space, that prove that diversity greatly benefits the space industry. Increasing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts are vital to space exploration for numerous reasons, some of which are as follows.
Slooh is committed to DEI by democratizing access to space, making it easy and affordable for anyone to have access to online telescopes situated at some of the best observatories in the world including the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands, home of the largest telescope in the world. Slooh makes its platform available for free to Title 1 schools through grants offered at Slooh.org.
It aids in filling in-demand space exploration positions
The US Chamber of Commerce reveals that there are an estimated 400,000 jobs in the space economy today, and this number is projected to rise to 1.5 million in the future. This major increase is motivated by efforts to improve space exploration moving forward. By making the hiring process more inclusive and equitable, these demands can be met. Some professionals are more in demand than others when it comes to space exploration. Malware and intrusions can put sensitive information and even the safety of astronauts at risk, which is why cybersecurity careers are particularly needed to man computers for analysis, problem-solving, and security. For instance, space cybersecurity professionals ensure that ground-based systems are running for the safety of astronauts. The US Chamber of Commerce adds that people in manufacturing careers are also needed to continue making parts, instruments, and goods to be used in future space missions. Meeting these job demands by prioritizing DEI in hiring practices will benefit the industry in ensuring that space efforts are safer and more efficient.
It improves efficiency in the space industry The world relies a lot on the space sector for enhancing the planet’s safety, uncovering the history of the universe, and making scientific discoveries. As such, it needs to be an industry that is efficient and productive. DEI helps contribute to these efforts. Inclusivity produces better outcomes from employees 87% of the time by helping them stay safe and comfortable in the workplace. If the space exploration sector invests more in DEI initiatives, there’s no doubt that these improved outcomes will help it provide increasingly better services to the population. It ensures better innovation for the space industry
Technology Magazine informs us that in 2021, only 20% of the international space industry were women. This is not a huge change compared to 30 years ago when only 11% of astronauts were women. In 2019, the American Institute of Physics also called out the underrepresentation of African Americans in the space industry due to financial inequality and exclusive workplaces. The lack of representation hinders innovation for space exploration. People from different backgrounds with contrasting experiences will provide unique perspectives that can lead to breakthroughs in space exploration. For example, the Hamilton Project found that cities with more highly-skilled immigrants are also more innovative. With a diverse set of professionals, there will be more opportunities for innovation and problem-solving. This makes DEI efforts all the more important. For the progression of the industry, everyone must be given the chance to apply their knowledge in a way that is heard and respected.
Current DEI initiatives in space exploration efforts The good news is that the space exploration industry is already currently implementing DEI efforts. The first is NASA’s plan to include women in the next moon landing mission to invoke the collective role of humanity in space. Another is AstroAccess, which gives people with disabilities a chance to experience weightlessness and basic astronaut training, as bigger space agencies have specific criteria for astronauts that they are often unable to meet. Through this initiative, they are given the opportunity to participate in space efforts even on the ground. These are undoubtedly just the first of many steps the industry is taking in the right direction. While space exploration already has DEI efforts in place, there’s always room to implement better initiatives to benefit society as a whole. After all, having discussed the importance of DEI in the industry, there’s no doubt that it is essential to further space discovery.
Written by Arnie Clovers