July 27, 2016

Black Girl Magic at NASA

I recently took the opportunity to head down to NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California to see the arrival of Juno from behind the scenes.

I was there as a social media ambassador with a group of other thought leaders to share in NASA’s next big moment of space exploration. While I was there, I met people I would not otherwise meet; the scientists who had an active part in designing the instruments on Juno, the project managers who drove the mission forward and even the Assistant Director for Science Communication.

I reflected on the privilege of getting to explore the space organization from the inside. It is opportunities like these that I think will encourage people of color to realize that aerospace and space science careers are achievable goals. At 12 years old I was studying the life of the first Black female astronaut Mae Jemison when I got the itch to travel to space myself. It was that goal that motivated me to get an Engineering degree and interact with NASA every chance I get. I had my first chance at 17 when I was chosen to participate in the NASA High School Aerospace Scholars Program. A 16-week course on the physics of orbits, design of space colonies and tests on the assembly of the International Space Station. After placing in the top of the class, I attended a week-long summer academy where I was on one of four teams tasked with designing a mission to Mars.

As we know, people of color are underrepresented in the science and engineering fields. When I look at NASA, I see Administrator Charles Bolden, who affects the policies and missions that NASA works on from its headquarters in Washington D.C., and Tracy Drain, who is a Flight Systems Engineer and cooperated closely with the Juno team on ensuring its successful arrival to Jupiter. I feel like NASA is a place where I can belong one day, and I am still on track to reaching my goals of going to space.

There is an inspiring movie set to release early next year called “Hidden Figures” that highlights the roles of three Black women in NASA during the 1960s as mathematicians. I am excited to hear this narrative from a perspective I did not know existed. I have already started on my research to learn more about Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson and how they helped America in the space race of the 60s. Diversity can be a challenge in many places, but in the case of NASA, I think it is an excellent opportunity to bring people of color to the light when it comes to aerospace and space science roles. By seeking out opportunities to take an inside look at NASA, it has brought fuel and passion to my inner space race.

Camille Eddy

Camille Eddy is a machine learning engineer at HP Labs in Palo Alto, helping to bring in the next generation of robotics.

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