NASA’s Final Frontier: Finding the great Black Scientist

We all know what NASA’s current mission, with Muslim outreach now the primary goal of that once vaunted organization.

Houston, 1969: How did these white guys ever succeed without Black people?

The next few days will see some long-awaited entries finally “go up” at SBPDL, but a quick thought on a story that came to our attention yesterday. NASA is attempting to address the “critical” shortage of Black people within the ranks of science and engineering fields, at a time when many high schools are doing away with honors programs and gifted classes because of a shortage of Black people in their ranks. With fewer Black students taking AP exams (and fewer garnering a three or above), one is left wondering where NASA will locate potential Black astrobiologists.

Curbing excellence seems to be a ploy to remove all remnants of white people excelling where Black people constantly fail. Perhaps if science labs are removed from high schools (as in Berkeley), the stunning athletic achievements of Black people will somehow progress our levels of scientific knowledge.

Instead of investing money in the “gifted” segments of society, we are intent on de-investing from those programs and redistributing that money to areas of consistent failure:

NASA has selected the United Negro College Fund Special Programs Corp. of Falls Church, Va., to administer a $1 million career development and educational program designed to address the critical shortage of U.S. minority students in science and engineering fields.

The NASA Astrobiology Institute’s (NAI) Minority Institution Research Support (MIRS) program in Moffett Field, Calif., is providing the funding for the four-year effort. The program will provide opportunities for up to four faculty members and eight students from minority-serving institutions to partner with astrobiology investigators. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and the future of life on Earth and the potential for life elsewhere.

“Providing new education opportunities for minority students will both enrich lives and answer a critical need for proficiency in science and engineering,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “But just as importantly, the program is an investment to cultivate imaginative thinking about the field of astrobiology.”

The United Negro College Fund Special Programs Corp. will use its extensive database of 14,000 registrants to develop an online community to provide webinars, virtual training and videoconferences, and provide outreach and recruitment for program participants. The program’s objective is to engage more teachers from under-represented schools in astrobiology research and increase the number of students pursuing careers in astrobiology.

“Our nation’s underserved populations are a tremendous resource on which we must draw, not just for science, but for everything we do,” said Carl Pilcher, director of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute. “We are extremely pleased that the NAI MIRS program will continue contributing under the leadership of such a strong and experienced partner.”

Founded in 1998, NAI is a partnership between NASA, 14 U.S. teams of universities and other organizations, and seven international consortia. NAI’s goals are to promote, conduct, and lead interdisciplinary astrobiology research, train a new generation of astrobiology researchers, and share the excitement of the field.

One of the first rules of SBPDL is that any organization that fails to have significant numbers of Black people  (or vocational fields) is operating at crisis level. Only with the introduction of large numbers of Black people can offset this horrible situation, for the efficiency of an organization and its status as a progressive, tolerant company (or vocation) is at stake.

So how many Black astrobiologists are there?:

During the Astrobiology Science Conference held at NASA Ames in April 2002, less than 1% of the 800 attendees were African-American.  To increase the visibility and participation of underrepresented scientists, The Minority Institution Astrobiology Collaboratory (MIAC) was formed.

A sane society would have no problem asking why that might be, but an insane society merely inquires as to how a greater representation of Black people will be possible (hint, lowering standards to becoming an astrobiologist).

One institution that has allocated money for NASA (and is a predominately Black university) is Alabama A&M. A top producer of Black people with advanced doctorates, Alabama A&M is also home to growing controversy that involves NASA, tens of millions of dollars and a chief compliance officer who used to be a janitor:

According to high ranking officials at Alabama A&M University, the FBI has started asking questions about recent events at the Research Institute.

That’s the flagship scientific research program, an 11-year-old separate corporate entity that employs A&M professors to handle millions in private and government research contracts on behalf of NASA, the Defense Department and numerous companies, such as Boeing.

“Yes, some senior administrators have been informed of a potential situation with the Research Institute,” said university spokesperson Wendy Kobler on Thursday when asked about the FBI investigation. “Of late, there have been no follow up conversations about the ongoing inquiry into the Research Institute.”

According to the former institute attorney, Annary Cheatham, after a summer of more than five firings and forceouts, there’s just about no one left at the institute with a background in science or with the necessary security clearance.

The institute’s small governing board, which includes former A&M trustee Shefton Riggins and current A&M trustee Tom Bell, on June 14 held a private meeting and fired the man who had helped found the institute, physicist and longtime director Dr. Daryush Ila.

They hired Dr. Tommy Coleman, who has a background in plant and soil science. In July, the board removed Coleman and put in director Deidra Willis-Gopher, a former teacher.

Kevin Matthews, a former Madison County janitor, became the new chief compliance officer. And Cheatham, who was brought in as general counsel for the institute on July 20 and let go 15 days later, said the bylaws were rewritten to place Matthews on the Institute board with Riggins and Bell, meaning Matthews is, in part, supervising himself.

Yes, the chief compliance officer that oversaw millions in grants was a former janitor.

Like all government agencies, NASA exceeds its employment of Black people (correlated to the percentage of the overall US population) by 49 percent.  This isn’t enough, as NASA lags in diversity:

In a year of firsts, the nomination of an African-American to lead NASA hasn’t grabbed national front-page headlines used for a black president moving into the White House, or for the selection of a Hispanic justice for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Yet, if former astronaut Charles Bolden is confirmed as the next NASA administrator, he will take over an agency still struggling to match the racial diversity found in the nation’s population, much less the federal work force in general.

Part of the reason is because minorities are underrepresented in the science- and math-related professions from which NASA draws, said space policy expert Howard McCurdy.

But that doesn’t excuse NASA, he said.

“The federal government has viewed itself as having a special responsibility to be a model employer, to go beyond what the occupational distribution allows,” said McCurdy, a public affairs professor at American University in Washington, D.C.

“I don’t sense that NASA moves much beyond what the occupational categories provide them. They are much more comfortable with technical challenges than with social ones.”

When it comes to racial parity, NASA falls short in all but one ethnic group, Asian-Americans. At Kennedy Space Center, the situation is a little different.

Blacks, who make up 12.8 percent of the U.S. population, represent 11.3 percent of NASA’s employees. They make up 17.9 percent of the federal work force. At KSC, blacks make up 7.6 percent of the work force, compared with 10 percent of Brevard County’s population.

Hispanics represent 5.9 percent of all NASA employees, although they make up 7.9 percent of the federal labor force and 15.1 percent of the nation’s population. Ten percent of KSC’s work force is made up of Hispanics, compared with 6.9 percent of Brevard’s population

Asian-Americans, who make up 4.6 percent of the national population, represent 6.3 percent of NASA’s work force. That’s nearly double the 3.4 percent they represent of all government employees. At KSC, 4.2 percent of the work force is made up of Asian-Americans, compared with 2.1 percent of Brevard’s population.”

We once went to the moon. We can’t go back now, not because mankind is getting dumber, but because mankind is having to curb excellence so that Black people won’t be left out. Honors classes, military entrance exams, AP exams, the SAT, LSAT, MCAT and ACT, the Wonderlic and any other test that requires a No. 2 pencil must go, because they deny Black people the opportunity to bless many vocations with wondrous variety and diversity. 

American innovation has been handicapped by the failures of Black people and to compensate for this continued poor academic showing (and thus high rate of barber shop employees), all companies or organizations – both public and private – must lower standards.

To understand why America made it to the moon in 1969 is to understand where America would be ranked in the PISA scores internationally were the white score not saddled with those of an underachieving racial group. 

The contributions of Black people can not go unnoticed: where would the world be without the Super Soaker or this nifty invention to hold sagging pants up?

We can only look at modern Huntsville to see where mankind is heading, thanks to Antoine Dodson.

Those of us looking at the year 2010 coming to close realize the world of Harrison Bergeron is upon us.



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