Of the 561 individuals that have been selected as astronauts or cosmonauts, none have ever identified openly as a member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) community. Last week, the Out Astronaut Project teamed with the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP) to provide opportunities for LGBTQ persons to become actively involved in space-related research. NOGLSTP is well-aligned with the mission of the Out Astronaut Project; since 1983 it has served to empower LGBTQ individuals in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields by providing education, advocacy, professional development, networking, and peer support.
The LGBTQ community lacks visible representation in the STEM professions; according to a recent poll conducted by 'Pride in STEM', more than 40 percent of LGBTQ people in STEM are not out and LGBTQ students are less likely to follow an academic career. As a result, there are fewer out LGBTQ STEM professionals serving as role models to LGBTQ youth. The 'Out Astronaut Project' will highlight the contributions of LGBTQ members currently working in science and space, provide grants to promising LGBTQ students currently pursuing professions in space-related fields, and to eventually train and fly an 'Out' member of the LGBTQ community to conduct a scientific mission in space as a scientist-astronaut.
"Astronauts inspire our youth, represent limitless possibilities, and serve as ambassadors to STEM," said Out Astronaut Project Executive Director Dr. Jason Reimuller. "We believe that communities are empowered when they are represented."
To achieve its objectives, the Out Astronaut Project had partnered with Project PoSSUM in January 2019. PoSSUM, an acronym for Polar Suborbital Science in the Upper Mesosphere, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit research and education organization that conducts upper-atmospheric and bioastronautics research that will be enabled by next-generation commercial spacecraft.
The Out Astronaut Project addresses under-representation of LGBTQ people in science by highlighting the contributions of LGBTQ members currently working in science and space while providing grants to promising LGBTQ students. It seeks to train and fly a member of the LGBTQ community as a scientist-astronaut. To learn more about the Out Astronaut Project or to apply to the Out Astronaut Contest, visit outastronaut.org.