Space engages people of all ages by sparking curiosity of the unknown. With NASA’s progress toward its first lunar missions in more than 50 years, a new generation of Americans can witness the awe-inspiring power and joy of a moon landing. It can also inspire people of all ages and backgrounds to pursue space-related science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers, from astronauts to engineers and physicists to technicians.
In recent years, we have witnessed significant diversity milestones in space exploration. Among these are the first all-female spacewalk and NASA’s diverse international crew of astronauts for the Artemis II lunar mission, where the first woman and first person of color will step foot on the moon. Although these achievements signal an important shift in the industry, women still represent only 20% of the space workforce. Black and Hispanic professionals remain underrepresented in STEM professions. Of the entire STEM workforce, a total of 24% are members of an underrepresented minority group. These statistics highlight the urgent need to continue expanding access to STEM education and the study of space — a core tenet of the Microsoft-NASA partnership that aims to address these inequities head on.
Microsoft and NASA’s innovative partnership
Critical to Microsoft and NASA’s more than two-decades of partnership is investing in the next generation by promoting STEM education across all communities. As part of this effort Microsoft is honored to collaborate with NASA to host our first Space Education Day — a showcase of students and educators across Washington, D.C. — on Tuesday, June 20 at Microsoft’s office in Arlington, Virginia.
Space Education Day provides local students an opportunity to connect with Microsoft and NASA members during a day of innovative learning and technology demonstrations. We are thrilled to welcome students from the greater Washington, D.C region, home to a diverse pre-kindergarten through 12th grade population. There will be live demonstrations with the help of students who learned to program in the Minecraft Education portal, an immersive learning platform inspired by NASA’s Artemis Missions. Microsoft’s Minecraft Education recently partnered with NASA and the Challenge Center to equip students with future-ready skills for the next era of space exploration, and now students will have the opportunity to exercise these skills in real-time.
“Our next generation of innovators need opportunities and resources that engage the Artemis Generation to reach for the moon and beyond,” said Mike Kincaid, associate administrator for NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement. “Investing in our students from all backgrounds today will build a diverse workforce that will ultimately achieve future breakthroughs in space.”
Featured sessions at Space Education Day include:
- Microsoft Space Camps – Minecraft Artemis: Students will explore the lunar surface and learn about NASA’s Artemis program in a fun and immersive Minecraft environment.
- Azure Space Hackathon – College students will showcase their experience and technology using NASA satellite imagery and Microsoft’s AI capabilities and the Planetary Computer to find offshore windfarms around the world.
- NASA MSI Space Accelerators – Partners will discuss the goals and objectives of the NASA Space Accelerator program to connect minority-serving institutions to mentorship and funding opportunities from NASA and Microsoft.
Space Education Day continues Microsoft and NASA’s efforts to develop high-impact initiatives and educational resources that promote STEM education for all. A student hackathon hosted last May by Azure Space and NASA called Coding for the Cosmos convened students from two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in Washington, D.C. to establish new technologies, including deploying code to the International Space Station.
Technology and the power of space can be used as a powerful tool to inspire, prepare and engage people of all ages and backgrounds, and Microsoft will continue to seek new opportunities to keep everyone reaching for the stars.
“Our collaboration with NASA allows us to provide new and exciting opportunities for students of all backgrounds to explore the space industry and related technologies,” said Steve Kitay, Senior Director of Azure Space. “One of the key purposes of Azure Space is to bring space, cloud computing, and other new technologies to the next generation – particularly those that might not otherwise have the opportunity.”
By continuing to integrate Microsoft technologies with NASA’s missions, data and expertise, it is our goal to broaden the ecosystem of STEM and empower our future workforce to explore the endless boundaries of space.
Photo credit: Justin Lewis/Getty Images