An LGBTQ+ Pride flag has been planted on the moon — in a sense.
Out Astronaut, an organization addressing the underrepresentation of LGBTQ+ people in science and space, planted the flag in the first test of a gravity-offset laboratory recently developed by the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences and established at Florida Tech in Melbourne.
During the test, conducted April 17, a Pride flag was placed into a simulation of the moon’s surface by a space suit evaluator, according to an Out Astronaut press release.
“We believe that communities are empowered when they are represented,” Out Astronaut Executive Director Jason Reimuller said in the press release. “Astronauts inspire our youth, represent limitless possibilities and serve as STEM ambassadors, yet there has yet to be selected for professional astronaut candidacy an openly identifying LGBTQ+ individual.”
Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, was a lesbian but never came out publicly. She died in 2012.
Also, more than 40 percent of LGBTQ+ people in STEM (science, technology, math, and engineering) are not out, according to a recent poll conducted by Pride in STEM, and LGBTQ+ students are less likely to follow an academic career. Therefore, gaps exist in aeromedical knowledge that pertain to LGBTQ+ individuals, the release notes.
The gravity-offset laboratory at Florida Tech’s Center for Aeronautics and Innovation was built to evaluate space suit technologies in reduced gravity environments, including lunar gravity and zero-G. The test team consisted entirely of out LGBTQ+ aerospace professionals: test director Jason Reimuller, test facility operator Mackenzie Calle, and test subject Brandy Nunez, who planted the flag.
Since the test, lab has been used by students to evaluate a variety of tools designed for operation in space or on the lunar surface.
In addition to highlighting the contributions of LGBTQ+ people currently working in science and space, Out Astronaut provides grants to individuals who want to become representatives of their community in space-related fields. The next Out Astronaut Contest is now active; interested parties may apply before June 15 at OutAstronaut.org.