|From an official NASA publication: progress was never about getting to the stars; real progress was about changing the makeup of who was getting us to the stars, if those stars weren't even the real final destination...|
Nothing quite articulates the tragedy of the situation of quite like NASA's Wings in Orbit: Scientific and Engineering Legacies of the Space Shuttle, we get an Orwellian chapter titled Social, Cultural, and Educational Legacies. It includes a subheads such as NASA Reflects America's Changing Opportunities; NASA Impacts US Culture. On p. 461 -462, we inadvertently get a lesson in a period of time when America looked at the stars knowing they were our potential destination and today, when we head into the cold, dark mines of nothingness.
At least we're inclusive though!:
Before the Space Shuttle was conceived, the aerospace industry, NASA employees, and university researchers worked furiously on early human spaceflight programs to achieve President John Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. Although these programs employed thousands of personnel across the United States, White men overwhelmingly composed the aerospace field at that time, and very few women and minorities worked as engineers or scientists on this project.
When they did work at one of NASA’s centers, women overwhelmingly served in clerical positions and minorities accepted low-paying, menial jobs.
Few held management or professional positions, and none were in the Astronaut Corps, even though four women had applied for the 1965 astronaut class. By the end of the decade, NASA offered few positions to qualified minorities and women. Only eight Blacks at Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama held professional-rated positions while the Manned Spacecraft Center (currently known as Johnson Space Center) in Texas had 21, and Kennedy Space Center in Florida had only five.
Signs of change appeared on the horizon as federal legislation addressed many of the inequalities faced by women and minorities in the workplace. During the Kennedy years, the president ordered the chairman of the US Civil Service Commission to ensure the federal government offered positions not on the basis of sex but, rather, on merit. Later, he signed into law the Equal Pay Act of 1963, making it
illegal for employers to pay women lower wages than those paid to men for doing the same work. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited employment discrimination (hiring, promoting, or firing) on the basis of race, sex, color, religion, or national origin.
Title VII of the Act established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which executed the law. The Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 strengthened the commission and expanded its jurisdiction to local, state, and federal governments during President Richard Nixon’s administration. The law also required federal agencies to implement affirmative action programs to address issues of inequality in hiring and promotion practices.
One year earlier, NASA appointed Ruth Bates Harris as director of Equal Employment Opportunity. In the fall of 1973, Harris proclaimed NASA’s equal employment opportunity program “a near-total failure.” Among other things, the agency’s record on recruiting and hiring women and minorities was inadequate. In October, NASA Administrator James Fletcher fired Harris and Congress held hearings to investigate the agency’s affirmative action programs.
Legislators concluded that NASA had a pattern of discriminating against women and minorities. Eventually, a resolution was reached, with Fletcher reinstating Harris as NASA’s deputy assistant administrator for community and human relations. From 1974 through 1992, Dr. Harriett Jenkins, the new chief of affirmative action at NASA, began the process of slowly diversifying NASA’s workforce and increasing the number of female and minority candidates.
And that slow process of diversifying NASA's workforce turned one of the only function federal agencies into just another US Postal Service, a veritable job program for otherwise unemployable minorities.
But it effectively grounded the ambitions of white men like Homer Hickam, whose aiming for the stars lacked the thrust and power of the diversity craze/initiative.
With NASA now nothing more than a glorified US Postal Service, let's bring up its Minority University Research and Education Program (MUREP).
MUREP is the feel-good program for those who believe one day the racial gap in achievement will be closed and we'll fly to the moon with just the endless power supplied by our mind.
Just the mind manipulating matter, willing objects into space! [NASA Selects Minority University Teams for 2014 Microgravity Research Flights, NASA.gov, 6-6-2014]:
NASA Selects Minority University Teams for 2014 Microgravity Research Flights NASA has selected 13 undergraduate teams from minority-serving institutions across the United States to test their science experiments in microgravity conditions. The teams will travel on a Reduced Gravity Education Flight (RGEF) with NASA's Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) the week of July 7.
Each team designs, flies and evaluates a reduced-gravity experiment that aims to fill technology needs and knowledge gaps previously identified by NASA. They will test their experiments aboard a specially modified aircraft able to simulate a reduced-gravity environment. The aircraft flies approximately 30 sets of rollercoaster-like climbs and dives, producing periods of near weightlessness and hypergravity ranging from 0 to 2 g's. "We are excited that our program provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for aspiring scientists and engineers to study and understand their craft. By participating in this innovative program, the students gain useful skills through collaborative planning and teamwork," said Frank Prochaska, RGEF program manager at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The 2014 MUREP teams are from Austin Community College, Austin, Texas; California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; Dallas County Community College District, Dallas; Gadsden State Community College, Gadsden, Alabama; San Jose State University, San Jose, California; Texas Southern University, Houston; University of North Carolina at Pembroke and Robeson Community College, Pembroke, North Carolina; University of Houston; University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida; University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras, San Juan, Puerto Rico; University of Southern California, Los Angeles; University of Texas at El Paso; and, University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg.
MUREP is committed to the recruitment of underrepresented and underserved students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to sustain a diverse workforce. Participation in NASA projects and research stimulates students to continue their studies at all levels of higher education and earn advanced degrees in these critical fields.What does all of the mean? It's a reminder that as diversity became the goal of NASA, the agency lost its founding focus, evolving into just another inefficient federal agency, costly and unproductive.
With more diversity the goal and press release congratulating the allocation of money to non-white causes as a reason to celebrate (and exist).
As hostilities with Russia rise again, heating up a Cold War long ago thawed (talk about mixed metaphors), it's important we understand why American astronauts being banned from hitching a ride on Russian rockets is a fitting conclusion to the space race. [Russia Bans U.S. From International Space Station: How Should America Respond?, Fool.com, 6-7-14]
It's right there in front of you, if you just open your eyes long enough and embrace the stinging reality of a sun, which long ago set on the American Dream...
As NASA's chief mission became just another self-congratulatory experiment in diversity hiring and minority promoting, its history of achievement prior to this new mission statement became an embarrassing reminder of the future Homer Hickman once dreamed of for this country. To those pulling the strings of power in America today, NASA's MUREP program is just as big an achievement as landing on the moon.