Hundreds of people gathered near Cape Cod in early August to celebrate black supremacy in space.
An STEM to the Stars event in Massachusetts, from the National Math and Science Initiative, brought together four black astronauts who have already been to space, plus a black astronaut candidate. They shared their stories and also participated in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) activities designed to inspire students from elementary through high school.
The black astronauts are now scheduled to launch towards… the moon and the International Space Station (ISS), after generations of work by their predecessors. After the Massachusetts event, two of those astronauts spoke about their experiences with Space.com: Joan Higginbotham, who spent 12 days in space aboard the spacecraft; Space ship STS-116 in 2006, and Bernard Harris, who spent more than 18 days in space on the shuttle missions STS-55 in 1993 and STS-63 in 1995.
Higginbotham remembers her mission as the “mini UN staff”. It included two black astronauts (her and Robert Corbem), along with representations of astronauts’ ancestry or nationality from places like Korea, India, Switzerland and the Jewish community – and that’s before even accounting for the backgrounds of the International Space Station crew who were visiting.
Related: NASA officials say diversity will be key to Artemis’ journey from the moon to Mars
Higginbotham said, “When I talk about my journey, I speak in terms of humanity and harmony, and all these people that I’m putting in quotation marks, working together for the common good.” “We can do that when we’re all confined to this little box of spacecraft. Why can’t we all work in unison here?” LandWhere is there much more space?”
Harris is the CEO of the National Math and Science Initiative, which hosted the STEM event. He helped found that organization as well. His 1993 space mission was a joint effort with European Space Agency It was a groundbreaking effort at international cooperation, Harris said, as two German astronauts joined the crew. The 1995 mission was the first space shuttle mission to the space station MirWhich became newly in the hands of Russia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
“The biggest thing for me is that as we were meeting and getting close, I took this sweet thing Photo by Valery Polyakov Which ended up on the cover of Aviation Week. “It was him in the profile in the station’s viewing window,” Harris said.
He said that the image of the astronaut is still influential today, because it is a symbol of how the International Space Station continues to cooperate with that country despite the international and continuing condemnation. Ukraine invasion which Russia initiated in February 2022. (As a result, most of Russia’s other space partnerships have been severed.)
Eighteen black astronauts have flown into space, According to NASA statisticsamong more than 600 individuals who have traveled to it space all over the world. (identification Where space begins It varies widely between entities, and thus will affect the statistics.)
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While the first black astronaut (Arnaldo Tamayo Mendez) flew into space aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft In 1980, after a generation of first astronauts at large, efforts to bring in black representation came sooner. Ed Dwight, who attended STEM to the Stars, participated in the military astronaut training program in the early 1960s. It was not chosen for complex reasons that are explained at length Smithsonian Institution article Written in 2020.
Then the first black American astronaut, Robert H. Lawrence, for the military planner Manned orbit laboratory (MOL) in 1967. Unfortunately, Lawrence never flew into space, as he died in a plane accident in December 1967. The MOL program never took off, but seven of Lawrence’s colleagues were flown into space. NASA In 1969 for eligibility to fly in the Space Shuttle program.
Some of the other milestones in the history of black astronauts include the first female astronaut on a space shuttle (Gione S. Bluford in 1983; the 40th anniversary of the launch is this week), and the first female astronaut (May Jameson in 1992), first astronaut (Harris, in 1995), first pilot (Sian Proctor, on SpaceX Inspiration4 mission in 2021) and the first long-term missions to the International Space Station carried out by a man (Victor Glover in 2020-21) and a woman (Jessica Watkins in 2022.)
However, everyone’s path to space is a journey worth sharing, stress the astronauts Space.com spoke to, as diversity lifts everyone up – regardless of their background.
“When you have people who bring diversity to the table, they come to the table and look at things through a slightly different lens (than) a homogeneous group,” Higginbothum said. “So you have the ability to have perspective, to have eight different points of view. And that makes you a better community.”
Related: The review concluded that NASA needs a more explicit focus on diversity to enhance representation
Higginbotham shared a story from an event she attended to honor Ronald McNair, the black astronaut who died aboard the spacecraft. Space Shuttle Challenger In 1986 McNair University, North Carolina A&T State University, holds a memorial event each January, in memory of the tragedy. (The historically black university also named a building after the fallen astronaut.)
“This particular year, I was going (to the event), but I was going as a redundant to my husband. So I was representing Mrs Mitchell.” “I was not astronaut Joan Higginbotham,” she continued. However, the event host asked to introduce a student with “a bad engineering degree that I didn’t even understand,” Higginbotham said. The student said she immediately recognized Higginbotham even though the former astronaut was not wearing a flight suit or any other identifying information.
Higginbotham continued, “I was blown away by that kind of thinking, and so it was very humbling for me to hear that I’m on her vision board.” The two continued to stay in touch while the student continues her educational journey in postgraduate studies.
She added, “I tell this story because that’s why acting is so important, and I bring tears to my heart when talking about it.” “Sometimes we (astronauts) don’t realize the impact we can make, but what we’ve done is touching. I feel really humbled and honored if someone thinks what I did was motivating for them.”
Now new stories are being written before us. Glover continued his long historical journey with a mission to Artemis Moon Program: He will become the first black astronaut to leave Low Earth orbit when Artemis 2 Flying in late 2024 or so.
“Victor will make history as an African-American man who will be able to circumnavigate the moon. Unfortunately, he will not walk on the moon – that’s yet to come – but yes, it will happen.” Higginbotham said.
“Think about children who were four or five years old when… Apollo 11 “And they landed on the moon,” she added, confirming that Glover would make a similar impact on his own mission.
Related: The Artemis 2 moon crew announcement seemed like a time warp in Canadian history
Harris was one of those kids inspired by Apollo 11, as he was 13 at the time and dreamed of walking on the moon. “My dream of going to space has come true, but my dream of walking on the moon has not,” Harris said. “So I’ll be there with Victor in spirit. He’ll be my replacement, and I think he’ll be my replacement for many of us here on this planet, especially the black community.”
Moreover, it was recently acquired by Janet Epps Second chance To visit the International Space Station as a member of SpaceXCrew-8 mission, which is scheduled to fly in February 2024. Epps was removed (without public explanation) late from the 2018 space station mission and it was said at the time that the decision Even her puzzledbecause she could find no medical or crew-related reason to explain this.
“She had a choice there, either give up and walk away, but she didn’t. She stayed,” Harris said of Epps’ situation. “It just reflects what I think the black community has dealt with, for hundreds of years, where there is adversity that comes into our lives and we remain resilient and continue to be contributors to this community.
“I think when things like this happen, it makes a person grow individually. It’s also very valuable to the organization — in this case, NASA — because we haven’t lost that ‘intellectual property,'” he continued, “as we talk about it in investing.” “I’m very proud of her for sticking around, and now she has a mission ahead of her. We’ll be watching and supporting her wholeheartedly.”