The Stars Are For Everyone

“Make no mistake, this journey will help guide and define our generation.”

nasa_bolden_state_of-nasa_020215_945Last week, I had the privilege of attending the State of NASA, which is essentially the same thing as the State of the Union, just for the space program. I participated with many others from Langley Research Center, where I was able to tour their facilities and see what they are doing to contribute to Orion and The Mission to Mars. Later, we heard from Charles Bolden, NASA’s Administrator, via Kennedy Space Center, who gave a wonderful address on where the space program is heading.

I’ve thought a lot about what I wanted to write in regards to his remarks, and going into the event, I was pretty sure I wanted to write about the importance of private partnerships, but there was a particular line that struck me that I have not been able to shake.

“It was through the Space Shuttle Program that NASA opened space flight to many who had previously had no chance of flying – bringing diversity in our crews to include women, minorities and astronauts from many of our partner nations – perhaps its greatest legacy.”

Out of all the tremendous advancements made by the Space Shuttle Program, why would the diversity of the crew be its greatest accomplishment?Dr._Mae_C._Jemison,_First_African-American_Woman_in_Space_-_GPN-2004-00020

As I’ve thought over this question, I’ve come to realize the simple truth that the push to the stars is our future, but that future is impossible unless we are taking everyone with us.

NASA and what it stands for is the American dream in its best form. It is the spirit of exploration and the triumph of human will over the unknown. It is the desire to push to be something greater than who we are now, and we will never be able to accomplish our best if we are putting limits on our people. For years, the American Dream was not actually a possibility for a rather large section of our population. It still isn’t one hundred percent there, but we must keep trying. Our future cannot include only a fraction of the world.

Representation matters. Being able to see someone like yourself triumph and accomplish their dreams matters. It inspires the lost and the lonely because they see themselves and it lets them say, “If they can do it, maybe I can too. Maybe everyone else is wrong. Maybe I can be more.”

On my wall, I have a print of Uhura from Star Trek bending down to a little girl who is saying “Representation Matters.” The painting was inspired by this story from Whoopi Goldberg.Representation-Matters-1

“Well, when I was nine years old Star Trek came on, I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, ‘Come here, mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!’ I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be.”

The idea that anyone can be anything they want, if they just put their mind to it, has long been propped up as what makes America great, even when we have not actually lived up to that mantra. But now, through NASA, that statement is becoming a greater truth for the American people.

Diversity will become our greatest legacy because it is how we will inspire the best and brightest from all walks of life to carry us into the stars and beyond. It is how we will change who we are as a people while we push to change the world we live in for the better.

Social and scientific advancement must go hand in hand.

Read the entire State of NASA here.