NASA is making an inspiring path. We need to make sure everyone can follow it



It was an exciting summer for space lovers: it was NASA Set Artemis 1 Release Datewhich is the first stage of an ambitious return to the moon, and last month saw the release of The first full-color images from the James Webb Space Telescopegiving humanity the farthest glimpse into space ever.

The current work of NASA is arguably the most inspiring of the past 50 years, lending support to one of his work Main missionsTo support science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education efforts.

And there is certainly evidence that space exploration inspires young people to study science.

as the Council on Foreign Relations pointed Last year, the percentage of graduates earning bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering fields peaked in the late 1960s, around the time of the moon landing, but slowly declined for several decades before the federal government began to reaffirm the importance of STEM education. Meanwhile, a 2009 study in the journal Nature found that the Apollo program was Inspired half of the scientists Survey.

The next generation of astronauts and scientists is sure to watch NASA’s latest achievements in science and technology and dream about their future adventures.

However, it is important to consider whether future astronauts receive the support they need to achieve their dreams.

In a recent letter published, more than 600 leaders from nonprofit organizations, academia, and the tech world He called for more computer science in schools. “The United States leads the world in technology, but only 5% of our high school students studying computer science,” the letter notes.

Sure, there has been progress over the years. More than half of the schools offer computer science, the letter notes—up from 35% in 2018. On the other hand, Hispanic students, English language learners, students with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged students are underrepresented in high school computer science, relative to their state’s population.

There is even some evidence that we are getting worse at encouraging students from different backgrounds to enter certain STEM fields. Last year, for example, the National Science Foundation (NSF) published data showing The percentage of women with a bachelor’s degree in computer science has decreased From 27% in 1998 to 19.9% ​​in 2018. Over the past two decades, the proportion of women with bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and statistics has also declined.

“The academic pipeline for women with advanced degrees in computer science may be affected, to the extent that graduate enrollment will be affected by a smaller proportion of women with bachelor’s degrees in computer science,” the NSF report says.

This is a worrying trend, given the opportunities now available to graduate students in technical fields. The The rapidly growing space economy Clear opportunities for young entrepreneurs, given the government contracting requirements, which require dealing with small businesses.

Kenneth Powersocks, NASA Administrator said: He said earlier this year. “If you have the passion and you have the ideas, you can find a way to get included in the system and become a part of what we do in LEO and what we’re going to do outside of LEO.”

While NASA’s current initiatives include developing advanced technologies and advancing humanity’s understanding of the universe, they also include efforts specifically aimed at encouraging diverse participation in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It is worth mentioning that Artemis mission Named after Apollo’s twin sister, it will culminate with the landing of NASA’s first woman and first person of color on the moon.

Before the real astronauts return to the moon, NASA Partnership with LEGO Education To send two figurines, named Kate and Kyle, to the moon aboard Artemis 1 with the intent of inspiring young children to learn about space. The two statues are the main characters of Build to Launch: STEAM Exploration Seriesa 10-episode tool focusing on science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics.

Partnership is one of many Cooperation and initiatives From NASA designed to spark student interest in the Artemis mission. The space agency cooperates with organizations such as Girl Scouts of the USA and hosting contests like Lunabotix And the Lunabotix Jr. Challenges that tasked students with building robots on the moon. NASA has also produced a series of graphic novels and digital platforms, first womanwhich tells the fictional story of the first woman to explore the moon.

This year’s surge of activity is just the beginning of a new era of space exploration. Scientists from NASA and the private sector are embarking on long-term projects to explore Mars, study the outer planets, and explore the outer limits of the universe.

But to truly succeed in space, the next generation will need more than dreams and encouragement — they will need real support on Earth, too.

ZDNET opening on Monday

Monday’s ZDNet editorial is our opening for this week in technology, written by members of our editorial team.

Previously on ZDNET’s MONDAY OPENER:

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