Astrobiology (general)

Letter to the Astrobiology Community Concerning Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access

By Keith Cowing
July 12, 2021
Filed under
Letter to the Astrobiology Community Concerning Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access

Dear Astrobiologists, NASA has released a Request for Information (RFI) related to the newly announced “Mission Equity,” soliciting input from the public on topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion

We at the NASA Astrobiology Program (AB Program) would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm our core values, and encourage the astrobiology community to consider a robust response to this NASA RFI.

The past year has been one full of challenges and changes, particularly with regard to inequity and systemic racism within the scientific community that has served to discourage, damage, and disregard numerous scientists in the fields encompassed by astrobiology.

We acknowledge that the NASA Astrobiology Program plays a key role in guiding astrobiology science in the United States, and recognize that the Program does not exist outside of the systemic racism that infiltrates how scientists are inspired, trained, and recruited, and how science is selected, supported, and communicated. We therefore embrace the opportunity to participate in the effort to reimagine and reinvent the way in which we do science, and who and how we are as scientists.

Over the past year, we at the AB Program have focused on necessary personal learning, both within our immediate team and within NASA as an organization. Our team has been participating in NASA’s internal programs for growth and we now hope to engage with the wider astrobiology community to continue our work.

Our goal is to encourage participation in co-creating a community in which everyone belongs, in which all members feel safe and can bring their whole selves, and in which everyone can feel respected and valued. In order for our community to grow and evolve into an authentic expression of diversity, we must identify and develop a new, shared set of ideals. In order to embody those ideals, we must change our practices. In order to change our practices, we have to change our thinking. In order to change our thinking, we need to look inward, and embark on an individual journey, shared in community. This starts now. If not, only more damage will be done in the future by inviting people into a broken system.

Our community has always had a strong and steadfast commitment to growing the next generation of astrobiologists. Through this journey of personal and professional evolution, that commitment has the opportunity to deepen and take on new dimension and meaning.

Let us engage in community-based dialogues and activities to share our thoughts, experiences, happenings in our respective spaces, and lessons learned toward both local changes, and the shaping of our field and community broadly. As the NASA Astrobiology Program, we see our role as a provider and facilitator of space in which this essential communication can begin to happen. This is just the beginning of a long-term effort, definitive of the rest of our professional lives. One step at a time, we will identify near term goals and activities, as well as those on the horizon.

As a first step, the NASA Astrobiology Program encourages everyone in the astrobiology community to consider a response to NASA’s current RFI. For more information on the specific topics within the RFI, please visit:

For information about how to participate in the public meeting on Mission Equity and the RFI on 13 July 2021 at 1pm EDT, please visit:

The NASA Astrobiology Program would like to work with those of you who do respond to the RFI and/or have interest in this work to initiate actionable dialogues toward evolving the astrobiology community toward full expression of DEIA ideals. Please look for communications from us in the near term about gathering to organize around this work.


The NASA Astrobiology Program Team

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻