NASA is slated to send the first woman and first person of color to walk on the moon by 2025. But before that historic event, the U.S. space agency took one giant leap for inclusion with its new interactive graphic novel series, First Woman: NASA’s Promise for Humanity. Beyond celebrating women in the space industry, the project aims to encourage the next generation of explorers to reach for the stars and achieve their own breakthroughs.
Produced in collaboration with the National Institute of Aerospace, the series will tell the fictional story of Callie Rodriguez, the first woman to explore the moon—along with her robot sidekick RT. Along the way, readers learn about the technology used to travel to, land on and explore the moon.
But this isn’t just another comic book. Working with U.S. creative agency Bully Entertainment, the team embedded interactive components, including an app and QR codes that let users experience augmented reality (AR) features, such as tours of the moon and the Orion spacecraft. And to ensure the book would be just as inclusive as the project leaders leading future space missions, NASA plans to release a Spanish-language version of the inaugural 40-page issue.
The decision-making process behind every page and component was driven by the desire to deliver an accessible experience for everyone, including those with disabilities or those who are visually impaired, said Derek Wang, director of communications, space technology mission directorate, NASA, Washington, D.C. Case in point: The team created an audio companion piece, complete with a Soundcloud link.
“We set out to make the content both engaging and accessible,” he said. “From space fans of all ages to hardworking educators looking for new ways to get students excited about STEM, we hope that there is something for everyone to enjoy.”
In a smooth scheduling move, the team released the first issue on National Comic Book Day in September. And then flexed its coolness cred—and widened First Woman’s appeal—when NASA showcased the project at New York Comic Con in October.
With more graphic novels and digital platforms in the works, the space agency hopes the project will inspire young creative thinkers to follow in the footsteps of someone like Pam Melroy. One of only two women to command a space shuttle, she’s now a NASA deputy administrator—and a big fan of how the new series leans into inclusion.
“The story of Callie captures how passion, dedication, and perseverance allow us to turn our dreams into reality,” Melroy said. “Her diversity is reflected in our own astronaut corps today—it’s important we can see ourselves as the explorers among the stars.”
First Woman is part of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Top 10 list in this year’s edition of PMI’s Most Influential Projects. Check out 200+ game-changing projects from around the world.