The benefits of fostering an inclusive framework for space exploration are already recognized. Both the U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs and NASA state that innovation and diversity drive exploration. The 20-year old International Space Station, for instance, is a successful experiment in international cooperation in space and science. No one nation could have accomplished this alone.
Inclusivity is particularly visible in the U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs’ programs and language, where “humankind” is used instead of “mankind.” Its Space for Women Project seeks to ensure that space benefits everyone and that women play an active and equal role in space and exploration. Fairness and inclusion are, after all, important aspects of a stable society. Inclusivity also supports international policymaking at the state level. Russia recently decided to join U.N. efforts to define guidelines of behavior in space to avoid being excluded from rule-making.
Back in 2016, the European Space Agency proposed a Moon Village to promote international harmony. The European Space Agency’s vision is to unite interested parties and nations to establish a sustainable Moon base for science and commercial purposes. In April, SOM, an urban planning company, and MIT presented the first concept design for this village. Private ventures, too, benefit from promoting diversity in space. Germany is seeking to send its first female astronaut to the ISS through a consortium of commercial sponsors and crowd-funding. Diversity and inclusivity are everyone’s concern.
Multiplicity of voices and perspectives matters for understanding space. Online media platforms, including Shespeaksscience, Everydayastronaut and Madam Mars, are weaving space images, science, information, cultural references and stories together to educate and inspire people’s interest in space and exploration.
Even nonhuman icons play a role in expanding space diversity. When NASA endowed Curiosity with its own identity and Twitter account, the rover’s science and exploration of Mars exploded on social media with more than 4 million followers. People connected with the rover’s personalized voice and daily narrative. What is less known is that Curiosity’s feed is run by three women at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Diversity of voice and perspective allows people to connect, learn and understand. Perhaps other future technologies and AI will play a role in furthering our notions of space, exploration and diversity.
Undoubtedly, the use of space improves life on Earth. But we also need human explorers in space to derive the greatest benefits. An inclusive approach is most likely to succeed. After all, returning to the Moon is only the beginning.