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NASA has released its first-ever Equity Action Plan to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion “in space and beyond.”
This action plan is the latest step in the agency’s Mission Equity Initiative announced last year in response to President Biden’s Executive Order 13985, which seeks to advance racial equity in the federal government.
“At NASA, all of our missions depend on our steadfast commitment to equal opportunity,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “The Equity Action Plan deepens our commitment to further identify and remove the barriers that limit opportunity in underserved and underrepresented communities. This framework anchors fairness as a core component in every NASA mission to make the work we do in space and beyond more accessible to all.”
The four focus areas the plan addresses are:
- Increasing integration and utilization of contractors and businesses from underserved communities and expanding equity in NASA’s procurement process.
- Enhancing grants and cooperative agreements to advance opportunities, access, and representation for underserved communities.
- Leveraging Earth Science and socioeconomic data to help mitigate environmental challenges in underserved communities.
- Advancing external civil rights compliance and expanding access to limited English proficient populations within underserved communities.
NASA Honors Black Mathematician
In the beginning of 2021, NASA launched the S.S. Katherine Johnson, a space shuttle named after the Black mathematician whose calculations helped NASA reach the moon.
The launch took place less than 100 miles from where Johnson worked as a “human calculator” for NASA for over 30 years, beginning in the late 1950s. The internationally recognized Black mathematician, who fought racism and sexism throughout her life and career, died in 2020 at 101.
In 2015, at the age of 97, President Barack Obama awarded Ms. Johnson the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In a speech that same year to the Congressional Black Caucus, President Obama noted, “Black women have been a part of every great movement in American history—even if they weren’t always given a voice.”
A year later, in 2016, NASA named a $30 million, 40,000 square foot computational research center in Johnson’s honor. NASA regularly gave Johnson credit for her contributions to flight safety, and was always sure to include other Black women in her success, particularly her colleagues Dorothy Vaughan, Margery Hannah, and Christine Darden.
“I do thank you so much for your attention, for your kindness, but more than that, I’m so happy to see you giving more recognition to women for the work that they have done,” Johnson said at the time.