Having participated in the 2023 First Nations Launch, an international NASA-Artemis Student Challenge, MIT’s First Nations team, for the first time, has stepped in whilst the challenge has been happening for the last 15 years. Hosted by the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium, the challenge entirely focuses on Indigenous representation and science in aerospace engineering through rocketry.
“Taking a journey to the stars and the sky is a very Indigenous concept, and it’s something that’s very close to us in all our stories. To visit Father Sky in that way, and go with respect, to try to find out new things and carry with it our hopes and send our good wishes. I think Indigenous people are drawn to aerospace for that fact,” says Nicole McGaa, who served as team captain in 2022-23 and is now the team’s project manager.
As soon as the team executed the making of the rocket and it was all set to go dive into the heights of the sky, a ceremony known and celebrated as ‘smudging’ was performed by the team members. Smudging, typically, is a blessing and, more specifically, a sanctification practice enacted by burning a sage in the process. The entire thing was performed by Lake Michigan prior to the beginning of the competition. Alongside taking the technical challenge of 2023 into consideration, the team, on the other hand, is also putting emphasis on the transcend endeavors driven by AeroAstro PhD student and team outreach lead Alvin Harvey.
Moreover, the other team members, as of now, are leading event organizations in order to inculcate the local indigenous youth with various STEM principles, introduce them to the fundamentals of rocketry, and build connections with traditional knowledge.