NASA's women took the spotlight Wednesday in a Women's History Month event showcasing their achievements in aeronautics and space exploration initiatives. The event gave students a chance to interact with an astronaut and other women working in science and technology careers.
NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver hosted the event for an audience of approximately 200 elementary through high school-level students from the Washington area.
"Women have made tremendous contributions to NASA over the years," she said. "They've been astronauts, scientists, engineers, program managers and served in many other capacities. We have an obligation to reach out to the next generation and inspire today's girls to pursue science and technology careers. Expanding opportunities in these fields will give perspectives and expertise to win the future."
During the event, NASA announced the creation of a new website that features women in NASA careers telling their stories in their own words. The website has 32 video interviews with women of diverse backgrounds who represent different aspects of the agency's work. Subjects include Garver, astronauts, engineers and scientists. They discuss their accomplishments and offer encouragement to women and girls considering technical careers so they can become the trailblazers of tomorrow. The site also provides information about NASA internships and career opportunities.
Garver took part in the event with NASA astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson. Dyson recently returned from a six-month stay aboard the International Space Station. She shared her experiences aboard the orbiting laboratory and noted how a NASA role model stirred her aspirations to become an astronaut. That role model was Teacher in Space Christa McAuliffe, who died in the space shuttle Challenger accident along with six fellow crewmates in 1986.
Valerie Jarrett, a senior White House advisor, assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs and public engagement, and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, also spoke. She discussed the importance of encouraging young women to pursue a solid education and providing them with more opportunities to enter any career field they choose, even those sometimes perceived as traditionally male.
NASA aerospace education specialist Trena Ferrell conducted an interactive science demonstration. The students also watched a performance by the Science Cheerleaders, a group of professional cheerleaders-turned-scientists and engineers who challenge stereotypes while helping to inspire young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). STEM education is a key focus of NASA's education efforts aimed at developing the next generation of scientists, engineers and explorers.
This special Women's History Month event featured a panel discussion that allowed the students to interact with the female NASA trailblazers featured in the show.