History-making NASA astronaut retires

A history-making astronaut has officially retired, leaving in her wake a stream of firsts and records set.

According to the Associated Press, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson has retired almost a year after her last and longest space flight. In her storied career, not only was Whitson the first woman to command the International Space Station, AP reports that she has “spent more time off the planet than any other American: 665 days over three space station missions,” not to mention that she’s “also the world’s most experienced female spacewalker, with 10 under her spacesuit belt.”

Joining NASA in 1986 as a researcher, AP says Whitson’s career highlights also include  serving as the only female chief of NASA’s “male-dominated astronaut corps,” as well as being the oldest woman to ever fly in space.

Director of flight operations at Johnson Space Center in Houston Brian Kelly explained Whitson’s impact in this way:

“She set the highest standards for human spaceflight operations, as well as being an outstanding role model for women and men in America and across the globe.”

As for Whitson, she took to Twitter to express how significant her time as a NASA astronaut has been, calling it “the greatest honor to live out my lifelong dream.”

NASA opens research center in honor of ‘Hidden Figures’ inspiration

A hero finally had her place in history cemented — literally.

According to Refinery29, NASA honored Katherine Johnson, a “mathematician whose contributions to NASA’s early space missions were instrumental to its success” and the inspiration behind 2016’s Hidden Figures film, by placing her name on their research center. Called the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility, Entertainment Weekly says the new building is part of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and was officially opened in a ceremony this past weekend.

In a pre-taped video, Refinery29 says Johnson shared how she felt about having a building named in her honor.

“You want my honest answer? I think they’re crazy,”  she said. “I was excited at something new, always liked something new, but give credit to everybody who helped. I didn’t do anything alone but try to go to the root of the question and succeeded there.”

Known as “the human computer” and a mathematician vital to launching John Glenn into space in 1962, Entertainment Weekly reports that Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe offered that while Johnson is not alone in her achievements, she is certainly a pioneer.

“You have been a trailblazer,” he said at the ceremony. “When I think of Virginia and the history of what we’ve gone through … you’re at the top of that list.”

Johnson’s work and those of her counterparts Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson were further immortalized in the film Hidden Figuresin which Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe portrayed the all-black, all-female mathematicians who shaped the trajectory of NASA’s space program.

 

 

Uber to donate $1.2M to Girls Who Code

Uber is finally getting a bit of good PR while also doing some serious good to encourage women and girls in STEM careers.

According to Glamour, the ride-sharing company is “moving forward with their multi-year partnership with Girls Who Code and giving the nonprofit a $1.2 million grant to help make their vision—closing tech’s gender gap—a reality.”

The move follows several reports of sexism and harassment within Uber, says Glamour, but with the company under new management after CEO Travis Kalanick was ousted and a March 2017 diversity report forcing them to double down on making a gender-inclusive workplace, Uber is taking steps in the right direction. Uber’s three-year endeavor to end the diversity gap in the tech world starts with Girls Who Code, reports Glamour, with Uber’s donation helping to “teach over 60,000 girls the skills they need to break into the tech world.”

Glamour also reports that Uber’s new chief brand officer Bozoma Saint John will also be joining the board of directors of Girls Who Code, marking another attempt to encourage girls in tech.

Small steps in the present will help make a bigger impact in the future! Good going, Uber.

Zendaya partners with ‘#WeNeedMore’ campaign

A career in engineering or technology is just as exciting as a career in Hollywood — that’s the message behind Zendaya’s new partnership with Verizon.

According to InStyle, the 20-year-old multi-hyphenate has teamed up with Verizon’s ‘#WeNeedMore’ campaign, which “encourages students to explore the many career possibilities that exist within STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.”

To help show students the kinds of careers possible, Zendaya brought a group of 13 and 14-year-olds to Capitol Studios to show how she records music, says InStyle, giving each of them a chance to sing with her and learn from audio engineer Joshua Florez how to edit and mix sound.

Inspired to participate in the project by her parents (who are teachers), Zendaya told InStyle that watching her mother push for educational technology in the classroom made her recognize the importance of those tools.

“I got to witness firsthand how much that can affect a young person, how much that can open their eyes to certain things that they may not even know exist at the time,” she explained.

And this program is no different, she told InStyle:

“It’s just kind of opening their eyes to other jobs, and other things that they can be involved in that maybe otherwise they wouldn’t even know exist, which I think is really cool…I’ve always been lucky that I’ve been able to have two parents that exposed me to that. But not every kid has that. Not every kid even has a teacher that’s going to go above and beyond to expose that to them. So that’s why programs like this are really important.”

Marveling at STEM

Marvel may be known for male superheroes like Captain America, Thor or the Hulk, but the company just created a program designed just for girls.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Marvel launched a program to support girls interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) ahead of the May 6 release of Captain America: Civil Wars.

“The ‘Girls Reforming the Future Challenge’ — supported by the National Academy of Sciences’ Science & Entertainment Exchange — encourages female students ages 15-18 in grades 10-12 to submit videos that demonstrate ideas they feel can change the world,” reported EW.

Civil War star Emily VanCamp told the USA Today about the program, “Elizabeth [Olsen]and I are here to tell you about an amazing opportunity for girls just like you to explore your inner potential to reform the future with positive world change through STEM.”

Adding that the submissions should demonstrate a “commitment to safeguard humanity, protect the Earth at all costs, and make the world a better place for future generations,” co-star Elizabeth Olson said that the projects submitted can be previously done for a class, for a competition or just for fun.

Once the applicants are narrowed down to five finalists, they will receive a trip to Los Angeles to attend the April 12 premiere of Captain America: Civil War.  In addition, they will participate in a webinar to discuss their project, tour the Walt Disney Studios and Dolby Laboratories and earn $500 in a savings account. If that weren’t enough, the winner will also receive an internship opportunity at Marvel Studios.

To learn more about the program, click here.