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Space Grant Consortium Keeping Arkansas on NASA’s Radar

3 min read

Constance Meadors, the not-so-new director of the Arkansas Space Grant Consortium, is putting Arkansas on the star chart — and keeping it on NASA’s radar.

The ASGC is “NASA’s arm into the state,” Meadors explained. As director, she oversees partnerships with 17 four-year universities and colleges across Arkansas to advance space science education, research, technology and public outreach in line with NASA’s overall mission. The consortium is headquartered at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Meadors took over in April, after longtime director Keith Hudson became director emeritus.

And taking the job right before Arkansas’ monumental solar eclipse had Meadors “hitting the ground running, even though I was already running,” she joked during a phone call. Meadors had been serving as interim director since January, and as associate director since August 2023.

The eclipse wasn’t the only historic aspect of Meadors’ appointment. She is the first African American and first female space grant director in Arkansas, as well as the first African American female space grant director in the United States.

To Meadors, she’s just doing what she loves: working with NASA and bringing space to Arkansas. Though that doesn’t mean she’s not honored.

“To accomplish the things I’ve accomplished starting as a young lady from a single-parent home who repeated first grade is very humbling,” Meadors said. “But it also speaks to the things that we can accomplish and how we can overcome obstacles.”

Meadors’ goal as director is to make every day like eclipse day. She wants people to be as excited about space, science and technology as they were April 8. The ASGC is working toward this in a few different ways.

The first is a statewide planetarium program, which aims to put a planetarium in every region of the state, in libraries, K-12 schools or one of the ASGC’s partner institutions. Meadors hopes this spreads knowledge of NASA and improves interest in space across Arkansas.

Advancing technology in Arkansas is also high on Meadors’ list. Whether it be grants to sense space debris, sending projects to the International Space Station or developing tools for everyday use, the ASGC is interested.

“It’s not just always astronauts and going to outer space,” Meadors said. “A lot of the technology that we love probably was something that was tested through NASA research, or used by NASA before it was actually released for our use.”

And when it comes to technology, the ASGC is positioned to promote innovation in Arkansas. The consortium provides seed funding, guidance and research partnerships not only with NASA, but statewide and nationally.

Meadors also hopes to elevate space research in Arkansas’ higher education institutions, as well as in the workforce.

“We [want] to have all our affiliated campuses really involved in research, and conducting research on their campus at a higher level,” Meadors said. And she doesn’t just want to work with four-year institutions; she wants to add community colleges to the ASGC. “If we’re going to meet the workforce, then a lot of workforce development takes place at that community college level.”

Meadors thinks Arkansas is a “gold mine” of undiscovered potential in STEM.

Arkansas’ aerospace industry, lithium prospects and commitment to technology are just a few of the reasons Meadors believes in the state.

“I want us to tap into the gold mine of our students, our researchers and our community to show NASA and everyone else what Arkansas can do and what we are doing,” Meadors said.

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