Artemis: Space wants more women on lunar mission 2023

What’s a name? NASA’s human spaceflight plans pose a loaded question.

NASA’s initial space programs needed magnificent names. Abe Silverstein, NASA’s 1960s space mission director, looked to Greek mythology.

Mercury. Gemini. Apollo. Male Greek gods..

“When I was a little girl, my generation had no idea that (women) could have a career in space,” said Florida Institute of Technology industrial psychology professor Lisa Steelman. “Space was traditionally sort of the domain of men, your Buzz Aldrin types.”

Engineers, pilots, and astronauts with “the right stuff”—American white males with college degrees or military experience—defined the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo eras. In the 1960s, NASA was a civil government body sponsored by the military with one goal: beat the Soviet Union to the moon.

While NASA has evolved, the objective of sending people to the moon remains. However, a more inclusive lunar program is named after Artemis.

“Now we have female role models going to space as captains on space expeditions, who are scientists,” Steelman added. “Accessibility is more of a topic now than it was before.”

The Artemis generation includes mission storytellers, rocket engineers and scientists, and future moonwalkers.

Pride in inclusivity. It signifies an industry-wide trend toward cooperation, international engagement, and recognizing diversity.

Modern space program differences

Artemis II, the program’s last demonstration mission, will launch next year with the April-selected Artemis crew. Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Koch, and the Canadian Space Agency’s Jeremy Hansen are the first individuals of color, women, and non-Americans to travel beyond low-Earth orbit.

The crew will go the farthest from Earth but won’t land on the moon. NASA’s Artemis III mission will put two humans on the moon, including the first woman, before 2030.

“Back in the time when NASA was stood up when the initial space program kicked off,” physicist and space industry consulting business owner Laura Forczyk told FLORIDA TODAY. Staying home was expected.

“There was an expectation that races would be separate and that higher level careers would not be accessible to people of certain races, ethnicities, religion or gender identity,” Forczyk added.

Top-down diversity

Federal rules have led decades of space industry diversification. Executive Order 13583 “strengthens the Federal workforce by promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility” in 2021.

The Executive Orders show the nation’s commitment to access. Steelman said it opens up these careers to everyone.

Vanessa Wyche, the third female director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas, thinks that concerted efforts to offer women and other minority groups with opportunity drive critical change.

‘Groupthink’ risks

Steelman said the space business required diversity and inclusion beyond regulations and presidential directives to thrive. She stated inclusivity boosts creativity, innovation, decision-making, and problem-solving.

It decreases “groupthink.”

Diversity reduces “groupthink.”

“Groupthink is when people in a room go with the leader’s decisions without kind of critically evaluating whether (it) is the right course of action, or being hesitant to speak up, because somebody in a position of authority has said, we’re going in this direction,” said Steelman.

In 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff, killing all seven crew members. Groupthink contributed to NASA’s launch fever.

Steelman argued that groupthink caused the Challenger catastrophe. “Everybody’s saying let’s go, let’s do it, without raising a life-or-death issue.”

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