NASA’s Mission Equity: Still time to participate
NASA’s Mission Equity
On July 13, 2021, NASA will host a virtual public meeting about its new program, dubbed Mission Equity. Officials at this meeting will discuss how the space agency can be more inclusive of diverse members of the public, including of people of color, members of religious minorities, queer persons, and more. Live coverage of the Mission Equity event will begin on July 13 at 1 p.m. EDT (17:00 UTC) on NASA TV, the agency’s website, and its mobile app. Watch here.
Following the 1 p.m. meeting, NASA will host five breakout sessions to address specific organizations within the agency. The breakout sessions will begin on July 13 at 2 p.m. (18:00 UTC). To attend a breakout session, participants must register. Register here for participation in a breakout session.
NASA announced Mission Equity on June 15. It began by asking people to share ideas and comments. NASA wants to know what might be currently preventing marginalized communities from joining the space agency.
The first formal commenting period ends July 12, but NASA will continue to consider suggestions received after that, representatives wrote.
How NASA will use your feedback
NASA will use the public’s feedback to review its programs, procurements, grants, regulations, and policies, officials wrote in the statement.
The NASA request for information (RFI) defines underrepresented communities as:
Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality.
The RFI outlines dozens of questions that NASA wants to be answered. They include, in the agency’s words:
- Does your institution offer any formal training to internship/work-based learning mentors around biases, anti-racism, or general DEIA [diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility]?
- What strategies should NASA consider to ensure opportunity and accessibility to particular groups, such as individuals with disabilities or limited English proficient individuals?
- How can NASA better collaborate with other federal, state, local, regional, and Tribal authorities to advance environmental justice; support rural, urban, and coastal communities; and address equity challenges facing underserved communities?
- Is there a specific NASA regulation, policy, or requirement that presents barriers to individuals and institutions that are part of underserved communities from identifying or applying for NASA financial assistance opportunities or implementing a financial assistance award?
Biden administration request
Mission Equity comes in response to President Joe Biden’s Executive Order titled Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, which was signed on Inauguration Day. According to the White House statement:
Agencies were asked to assess whether, and to what extent, its programs and policies perpetuate systemic barriers to opportunities and benefits for people of color and other underserved groups.
NASA’s Mission Equity goals
The NASA RFI goes on to say that:
… these efforts will help foster NASA’s vision to benefit the quality of life for all on Earth; NASA’s mission to explore, use and enable the development of space for human enterprise through research, development and transfer of advanced aeronautics, space and related technologies, Economic Growth and Security, and Educational Excellence; and NASA’s goal to enrich our Nation’s society and economy with a fair and equitable approach.
The RFI is called Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities in NASA Programs, Contracts, and Grants and is one of the several executive orders the President signed on his first day in office on January 20. Read the full RFI here.
Minorities to the moon
In the meantime, in February 2021 NASA’s ongoing Artemis mission got a welcome boost to those waiting to hear how Artemis will fare under the new Joe Biden administration. The stated goal of Artemis is to send men – and a woman, and a person of color, for the very first time – to the moon by 2024.
Bottom line: On July 13, 2021, NASA will host a virtual public meeting about its Mission Equity, during which officials will discuss how the space agency can review its policies to be more inclusive of people of color, members of religious minorities, queer persons, and more.