The US space agency has renamed its DC headquarters after NASA’s first black female engineer Mary Jackson, celebrating with a poem about “going to Mars” even as the agency delayed the planned return to the moon.

Long merely called “NASA Headquarters,” the Washington, DC building was officially renamed in honor of Jackson on Friday. She became the space agency’s first black female engineer in 1958, seven years after joining its predecessor the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).

While Jackson died in 2005 and was not known to have worked on any Mars-related projects during her lifetime, poet Nikki Giovanni paid tribute to the engineer, celebrating the building’s christening with a poem about “going to Mars.”

Because “we have rockets, and fuel, and money, and stuff,” NASA will finally begin sending humans to the moon again, Giovanni reasoned. The only reason NASA had been holding back was their lack of control – “they don’t know if what they send out will be what they’ll get back”, she said.

The trip to Mars can only be understood through Black Americans

It’s not the first move related to change in naming culture at NASA. In 2019, the agency unveiled Project Artemis as a more egalitarian complement to the Apollo missions, aimed at sending the first woman (and the first man in 50 years) to the moon by 2024. However, the Trump administration stopped short of playing affirmative action games with the crew, who have not been selected yet at any rate.

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NASA has repeatedly been pushing back critical deadlines for Artemis, which will require entirely new hardware and extensive testing for the next generation of lunar landing hardware. While the 2024 deadline was already viewed as optimistic by the end of 2020, more recent developments have rendered it all but impossible. Congress has largely starved the program of the funding NASA said was necessary, apportioning just $850 million in its last spending bill compared to the $3.2 billion the agency sought.

As a result, the agency quietly postponed the timetable for doling out lunar lander contracts by two months in late January, insisting more time was needed to decide on which Human Landing System(s) proposals will continue to receive funding. While Blue Origin, SpaceX, and Dynetics are all competing for the job, they now have until the end of April to submit their proposals, which NASA hopes will permit a “seamless transition” to the next phase of the project. (RT)