NASA launches ‘Mission Equity’ to evaluate barriers for underserved communities
In a new initiative that runs until July 12, NASA is inviting the public to share ideas and comments about how the space agency can be inclusive and more representative of the public at large.
On June 15, the space agency announced the program, dubbed Mission Equity, and released a request for information (RFI) called “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities in NASA Programs, Contracts and Grants.”
The goal of the RFI is to determine what roadblocks the agency is currently ignoring that prevent underserved and underrepresented communities from joining the space agency. It’s part of one of the several executive orders that President Joe Biden signed on his first day in office, Jan. 20. You can read the full RFI here.
A NASA press release detailing the 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 public feedback from the RFI will help NASA conduct a thorough review of its programs, practices, and policies, NASA officials wrote in the statement.
People can leave comments via regulations.gov; if the website is a little intimidating, this video helps guide you through the commenting process. Early comments are encouraged, and suggestions received after July 12 will be considered for future outreach efforts, NASA representatives wrote.
Bill Spetch (left), the Manager of NASA’s ISS Transportation Integration Office, and Courtney Beasley, a NASA Public Affairs Officer, look out the window of an AN-26 aircraft as they fly from Karaganda to Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan to prepare for the Soyuz MS-17 landing of Expedition 64 crew members Kate Rubins of NASA, Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos on April 16, 2021. (Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls/Flickr)
The RFI outlines dozens of questions that NASA wants 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?
According to the RFI, this effort assists in the execution of the President’s Executive Order 13985, “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” signed on Inauguration Day. “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,'” according to the RFI.
The 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.”
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