Statement on National Unrest by SWF Executive Director Peter Martinez

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

This past week has been a week of striking contrasts. The successful launch of the Demo-2 mission last Saturday showed once again what amazing feats humans can accomplish when they collectively set their sights on a shared lofty goal, and it showed, yet again, the astonishing inspirational power of space exploration. At the same time that this historic space exploration milestone was being celebrated, the tragic and shocking killing of George Floyd earlier that week both appalled and outraged people across America and around the world and served as a stark reminder of the dispiriting anguish experienced on a daily basis by millions of people around the world who are subjected to humiliation, violence and injustices rooted in racism, xenophobia and intolerance on a daily basis.

It also exposed an uncomfortable truth to many of us, namely that we often turn a blind eye, or pretend that these things don’t happen in our homes, our schools, our communities and our work places. They do. Racism, xenophobia and intolerance are problems that are prevalent in all societies. We should have the courage to acknowledge this and confront these failings, in ourselves, in our communities and in our work places. Every day, each and every one of us can stand up against racial prejudice and intolerant attitudes to be a human rights champion through our words and actions, no matter how insignificant it may seem in a given
circumstance or moment.

We need to do this, not only because it is the decent and right thing to do, because our future as humanity on this planet depends on all of us getting along peacefully, and this cannot happen as long as we live with the scourges of racism, xenophobia and intolerance. We all share a common future on this Earth. As the COVID-19 pandemic has forcefully reminded us, our futures on one side of the planet are inextricably intertwined with the futures of people living on the other side. We are a global community that needs to listen to the voices of all in order to create just and equitable systems that benefit all humanity.

We in the space community often talk about the inspirational power of space, and this power was evident in abundance again last weekend. If there is one lesson that the space community can take from this past week, it is that we can harness the inspirational power of space to be as inclusive as possible in our work places and in all our activities, to help create a more tolerant, more inclusive and more humane society, right here on Earth. This can be our community’s contribution to honoring the life of George Floyd, and our community’s contribution to ensuring that space exploration will be conducted by humanity in all its wonderful diversity.

Sic itur ad astra.

Dr. Peter Martinez, Executive Director, Secure World Foundation

Last updated on June 15, 2020