The successful deployment of Curiosity on Mars has once again made me shout for joy and groan in pain. Let me explain. NASA posted a picture on its website showing the joyful celebration when Curiosity signaled it had reached the surface of Mars intact. Having been involved with space science myself, I can well understand how everyone in that room felt and share their feelings of joy and triumph.
But in looking at the faces in the room, I also felt great sadness. There were men, there were women, but there were very, very few people of color. Being African-American myself, and having held an internship with NASA, I know the opportunities are there for anyone with the requisite education and talent to participate in space science. Why are there so few people of color involved in programs and careers of this sort?
I have also been a high school mathematics teacher and have noticed this same disparity in that field. Oh, I’ve seen plenty of Asians involved in mathematics, but other minorities shy away from it. And as far as jumping into physics, astronomy and engineering, I’ve seen the same lack of interest and participation. So I’d like to open a thread on this and get other people’s thoughts. There is a problem. Why, despite decades of effort, has the situation not changed? And what suggestions do any of you have to that could make a difference.
It used to be that women faced all kinds of discrimination entering fields like medicine and law. Those barriers no longer exist. Women are active in other previously male-dominated professions as well and NASA has done a great deal of work in bringing women into its fold. But for some reason, there has been a notable lack of response and participation by people of color in space science. I look forward to your comments.