Virgin Galactic awards scholarships to black students in spaceflight diversity drive

Five STEM undergraduates from US universities have been selected for the scheme

Virgin Galactic pre-flight operations
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Virgin Galactic has awarded scholarships to black students in a scheme to make spaceflight more diverse.

Five science and technology students from across the US have been selected as part of the company's Galactic Unite Black Leaders in Aerospace Scholarship and Training (BLAST) program.

The company said they will receive mentoring, paid summer internships and job placement opportunities upon graduation. In addition, each student will receive $5,000 in scholarship funding per award, which is renewable for up to 3 years.

Richard Branson Welcomes VSS Unity Home from Second Supersonic Flight. May 29th 2018
Virgin Galactic is aiming to capitalise on gorwing interest in space tourism.

BLAST selectees will collaborate with the Patti Grace Smith Fellowship which aims to boost the number of black students in the sector.

Virgin Galactic launched the BLAST initiative to address a lack of representation from minority communities in the aerospace sector, which is “missing out on the advantages brought by hiring, training, and empowering diverse groups of talented people to drive innovation.”

Just 6 per cent workers in America’s aerospace and defence industry are black, according to a study by Aviation Weekly, with the figure falling to just 3 per cent in executive positions.

Michael Colglazier, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, said: “These fantastic scholars are helping to drive forward the aerospace industry, and I’m delighted to welcome them onto the Galactic Unite BLAST program as our first cohort.

“Diversity is a key component of innovation, and this scholarship will inject even more creativity and add extra insight into the growing aerospace sector. I look forward to seeing this group of brilliant individuals thrive across the organisations involved in this program, and hope to see them become future leaders in the aerospace industry, inspiring others to follow in their path.”

Virgin Galactic has launched a number of flights to the stratosphere as it aims to capitalise on a growing interest in space. It comes as the UAE's Hope probe and Nasa's Perseverance recently entered Mars's orbit in an attempt to find out more about the secrets of life on the 'Red Planet'.