Training fields

Florida-based program seeks to diversify space, STEM fields


As the United States moves forward into the era of commercial space activities and sends more people into space than ever before, there remains a disparity as to who is able to thrive in this field.

A study 2021 published in the journal Scientists progress examined 21 STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) professional societies and found that “LGBTQ STEM professionals were more likely to experience career limitations, harassment, and professional devaluation than their non-LGBTQ peers.”

What do you want to know

  • Out Astronaut was created to increase LGBTQ representation in space and STEM fields
  • Florida Tech alum Brian Murphy is Astronaut Out 2021
  • Murphy helped unveil the Dr. Sally Ride neighborhood in her home state of Maryland in April

The study also found that this group was “more likely to intend to leave STEM” and “reported more frequent health problems”.

Seeking to meet part of this challenge, institutions such as the International Institute of Astronomical Sciences (IIAS), PoSSUM Project and Go out to innovate have come together to help sponsor The Out Astronaut Project.

The program selects someone from the LGBTQ community to begin a three-phase course with the eventual goal of conducting a science mission aboard a commercial suborbital flight.

A recent Florida Tech graduate student, Brian Murphy, has been chosen as 2021 Our astronaut. The planetary science major said it was an amazing opportunity to share her story and create a platform for others in the LGBTQ community.

“I was absolutely blown away because this was something I had been looking for for so long and I knew I had to apply,” Murphy said. “I saw the opportunity to not only advance myself, but to advance others, to break down those barriers intrinsic to academic and professional STEM fields.”

At this point, Muphy is at the end of the first phase, which is basic training through the PoSSUM project. All candidates taking the IIAS training start with the PoSSUM project courses at Florida Tech.

Phase two of the program structured by the IIAS is advanced training in astronautics, and phase three is the in-flight science mission.

IIAS and Out Astronaut were the brain children of Jason Reimuller, a Florida Tech alum himself and someone who also identifies as gay. He previously served in the Air Force and said he was twice selected as a “highly qualified” astronaut candidate by NASA, but was not selected.

Creating performance space has long been important to Reimuller. Him and his friend Marc Bingham helped create what Reimuller described as the first open men’s rugby team before Bingham was killed along with 39 other passengers on United Flight 93 in 2001.

The Bingham Cup was created in his honor the following year.

“Sport and STEM have a lot of similarities. They build bridges between cultures. They’re based on merit, not your influence over your money, and people relate to that. It connects cultures and yet we still have a lot to do in STEM,” said Reimuller.

The Out Astronaut Project has not announced when it will take on another candidate, but Murphy said he wants to make the most of this platform. In April, he was in his home state of Maryland, where he joined representatives from the US Mint to unveil the Sally Ride Edition of the quarter as part of the “American Women’s Quarters” series.

“Sally’s legacy has inspired me time and time again to not give up, to reach new heights, and to be proud of who I am as an LGBTQ individual,” Murphy said at the 21 event. april. “Ultimately, it was knowing his identity that gave me the strength to apply for the Out Astronaut competition in 2021, which will allow me to follow in his footsteps as I train for suborbital spaceflight. and advocates for LGBTQ acceptance around the world.”

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