This summer has been exciting for space lovers: NASA has set a launch date for Artemis 1, the first phase of an ambitious lunar return project, and last month the first color images from the James Webb telescope were released. giving humanity the most profound picture of the universe ever made.
NASA’s current work is arguably the most inspiring in the last 50 years, reinforcing one of its key missions: supporting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) efforts.
And it is obvious that space exploration inspires young people to do science.
Space missions that inspire graduates
As the Council on Foreign Relations noted last year, the percentage of science and engineering graduates peaked in the late 1960s, around the time of the moon landing, and then slowly declined over several decades before the US federal government re-emphasized the importance of STEM education.
Meanwhile, a 2009 study published in the journal Nature found that the Apollo program inspired half of the scientists surveyed.
The next generation of astronauts and scientists will surely follow NASA’s latest scientific and technological advances and dream of their future adventures.
However, it is important to ask whether tomorrow’s space pioneers are getting the support they need to make their dreams a reality.
In a recently released letter, more than 600 leaders from nonprofits, universities and the tech world called for increased teaching of computer science in schools. “The United States is at the forefront of technology in the world, but only 5% of our high school students study computer science,” the letter notes.
Of course, there has been progress over the years. The letter says more than half of schools offer computer courses, up from 35% in 2018. In contrast, Hispanic students, English learners, students with disabilities, and students from low-income backgrounds are underrepresented in high school computer science compared to their state. Population.
IT attracts few women
It even seems to be becoming more difficult to encourage certain populations to engage in certain areas of STEM. For example, last year the National Science Foundation (NSF) released data showing that the proportion of women who earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science fell from 27% in 1998 to 19.9% in 2018.
Over the past two decades, the share of women acquiring bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and statistics has also declined.
“The academic process for women pursuing graduate degrees in computer science may be affected as graduate enrollment will be affected by a smaller proportion of women pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science,” NSF said in a report.
The space economy opens up opportunities for young entrepreneurs
This is a worrying trend given the opportunities currently available for graduate students in technical fields. The fast-growing space economy offers clear opportunities for young entrepreneurs given the demands of government contracts that require doing business with small businesses.
“If I was a graduate student with a great idea, I wouldn’t let the fact that I’m in a one-man business stop me from doing business,” NASA spokesman Kenneth Bowersox said earlier this year.
“If you have passion and ideas, you can find a way to integrate into the system and be part of what we do in low orbit and what we do outside of low orbit. »
lego on the moon
While NASA’s current initiatives are about developing cutting-edge technologies and deepening our understanding of the universe, they also include efforts specifically to encourage diverse participation in STEM fields. Notably, the Artemis mission, named after Apollo’s twin sister, will land the first woman and man of color on the Moon.
Before the real astronauts return to the moon, NASA is partnering with LEGO Education to send two minifigures named Kate and Kyle to the moon aboard the Artemis 1 spacecraft to inspire young children to explore space.
Both figures are the protagonists of the Build to Launch: A STEAM Exploration Series, a 10-part science, technology, engineering, art, and math series.
NASA and youth
This partnership is one of NASA’s many collaborative projects and initiatives to spark student interest in the Artemis mission. The space agency has partnered with organizations such as the Girl Scouts of the USA to host competitions such as the Lunabotics and Lunabotics Junior Challenges, which challenge students to build lunar robots.
NASA has also released the First Woman series of graphic novels and digital platforms, which tells the fictional story of the first woman to explore the moon.
This year’s activity is only the beginning of a new era of space exploration. NASA and private sector scientists are embarking on long-term projects to explore Mars, study exoplanets and explore the limits of the universe.
But to truly succeed in space, the next generation will need more than dreams and support — they will also need real support on the ground.