The New Horizons Team has achieved a lot during its decade of existence, but perhaps it’s greatest legacy is that it has more women on it’s staff than any other project in NASA’s history. Out of the 200 scientists, engineers, and astronauts that are apart of the New Horizons project, one-quarter of them are women.
In a field where workplace discrimination is rampant and men ordinarily outnumber women on a daily basis, New Horizons astrophysicist Kimberly Ennico expresses her appreciation for the different atmosphere this mission brings. “I distinctly remember on more than one occasion, when I’ve been the only woman in the room, people thought I was the secretary,” Ennico told The Atlantic. “To be in a room full of more women than men or equal number of women and men? First of all, it feels normal, which is wonderful.”
Although the New Horizons team is setting the precedent for gender equality for NASA missions, many of the women participating are more focused on the science than any gender issues. “When I look at a team and somebody says, ‘Oh, look at the mix of diversity on your team,’ it’s something that I don’t see unless someone points it out,” says Alice Bowman, the missions operation manager for New Horizons.
New Horizons has already collected many milestones for NASA, including the first color footage of Pluto, photos of all five of its moons, and flowing data streams about Pluto’s composition and atmosphere. The team’s next mission will send them into space with a NASA probe scheduled to land about 8,000 miles away from Pluto. Their goal is to gain more information about Pluto’s atmosphere and what the planet is made of.
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