A new fellowship program seeks to draw more Black students into space – My programming school

A woman excepts an award from a man in factory-style work clothes.
Enlarge / Patti Grace Smith was an necessary determine within the business space business.

Alvin Drew remembers turning into entranced with airplanes a number of months earlier than his fifth birthday. In the autumn of 1967, he went to the airport in Baltimore to see his father off on a enterprise journey. In these easier occasions, he recollects strolling exterior to watch the takeoff from a chosen space on the runway.

Four-year-olds are into all issues huge and loud, and seeing an airplane come racing down the runway, popping a wheelie, after which taking off was simply concerning the coolest factor he may think about. His mother and grandmother, each educators, famous his curiosity and purchased him mannequin airplanes. This nurtured a budding curiosity in flying and later turning into an astronaut.

“They saw a smoldering fire of curiosity inside me,” Drew stated. “They went out and threw as much gasoline on the fire as possible.”

Drew would go on to the Air Force Academy in 1984, the place a mentor famous his curiosity in someday turning into an astronaut. The teacher stated if Drew actually wished to fly into space, he wanted to get good grades, flight expertise, and a sophisticated diploma. “He laid down a flagstone path to me for becoming an astronaut,” Drew stated. “Many Black students, myself included, would not have known otherwise.”

In 2000, Drew was chosen to change into a NASA astronaut and flew into space twice on space shuttle missions, together with the ultimate flight of Discovery in 2011. Until Victor Glover launches on NASA’s Crew-1 mission later this month, Drew stays the final Black astronaut to have flown into space.

Drew shared this background to stress the significance of mentors. They helped nurture his curiosity in space and obtain a profession within the aerospace business. And it explains why he has performed a task in founding the Patti Grace Smith Fellowship program alongside Khristian Jones, Tiffany Russell Lockett, and Will Pomerantz.

While on the Office of Commercial Space Transportation, Grace was a key proponent of economic space within the Nineteen Nineties and 2000s and a a lot-beloved member of the aerospace neighborhood. She ran the workforce that licensed the primary ever business human spaceflight aboard SpaceShipOne. She died of pancreatic most cancers in 2016.

The program named in her honor will create paid fellowship alternatives for Black students at neighborhood schools and universities at among the nation’s main space corporations, together with SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Lockheed Martin.

Alvin Drew flew into space on the final space shuttle <em>Discovery</em> mission.

Alvin Drew flew into space on the ultimate space shuttle Discovery mission.


This is a mission of the profitable Brooke Owens Fellowship, which was launched in 2017 to facilitate the inclusion of more girls into the space business. Drew, aware of that fellowship, stated he was keen to assist the same fellowship for students of shade. Black folks make up 13.4 % of the US inhabitants, but it surely’s estimated that solely 6 % of US Aerospace and Defense employees are Black. Only 3 % of aerospace executives are Black.

Drew stated these sorts of packages are necessary for the way forward for the nation. As the United States competes with China, India, and different nations in aerospace within the coming a long time, he stated the nation wants to faucet into its total inhabitants.

“I want leverage as much of our nation’s talent as rapidly as possible, especially in the STEM career fields,” stated Drew. “We can’t compete with those countries in number of people, so we need to glean every ounce of talent available.”

The fellowship will search students from nontraditional aerospace universities, together with neighborhood schools, to discover underrepresented candidates, he stated. This will profit students who won’t in any other case pay attention to alternatives whereas additionally serving to business discover job candidates at establishments they won’t in any other case be taking a look at.

And what high quality ought to profitable candidates have when they apply? “We’re looking for people who have a strong-enough desire,” Drew stated. “We’re looking for the most motivated people. The surest way to fail is to not try at all.”


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