Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock was only a few months old, making her own first small steps, when man first landed on the moon in 1969. Over half a century since the last Apollo mission, Nasa finally has plans to return. It’s not just the potential of building bases and exploring further out in our solar system that Aderin-Pocock is excited about but changing the demographic of moon walkers.
“Twelve people have been to the moon and so far it’s been 12 American white guys. So we need to diversify the moon a bit,” she says. “As a Black female, I keep saying, ‘I’ll go, send me!’ Nasa haven’t called me back yet. But I’m still hopeful.”
Growing up watching The Clangers inspired Maggie Aderin-Pocock as much as the moon landings to become a space scientist. She presents The Sky At Night, has given talks to over 350,000 people over the years and has noticed the demographic of people she speaks to and meets changing.
“When I studied at university [at Imperial College in London] there were 200 physics students. Only two of us were Black and I think five of us were women. I was the only one that fitted into both categories. Now I meet many female scientists, I meet many Black scientists. So I think it’s changing. The problem is, it’s changing too slowly.”
With the worsening cost-of-living crisis and cuts to education, it’s becoming more difficult for those less well-off to go into higher education. Although Aderin-Pocock doesn’t think that should stop people dreaming of the stars.
“I got a full grant when I went to university, we were living in a council flat. I worry that it’s quite a challenge to say, ‘OK, I’m going to go to university and come out with a stack load of debt around my neck’. I know it’s set up so people don’t have to pay straight away and you have to earn a certain amount. But it still focuses the mind, ‘Should I do this?’ People think that if you’re going to be a scientist, you need to go to university but there are wonderful apprenticeships where you’re learning and earning at the same time. If I was just starting out and considering a degree at the moment, I’d think twice about it, which is a shame. I might have actually gone for an apprenticeship.”