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SETI Institute, Unistellar and Planetary Society partner to host World Space Week events for girls

(Image credit: Sergei Konkov/TASS/Getty Images)

The SETI Institute has partnered with Unistellar and The Planetary Society to host virtual World Space Week events that aim to inspire the next generation of female space explorers. 

World Space Week is an international celebration that commemorates the achievements and contributions of space science, technology and its applications. The events of World Space Week every year stretch from Oct. 4 — the launch anniversary of the first human-made Earth satellite, Sputnik 1, in 1957 — to Oct. 10, the anniversary of the signing of the Outer Space Treaty in 1967, which governs how to use space, such as the moon and other celestial bodies, peacefully. 

This year's World Space Week honors women in space, celebrating those who significantly contributed to the space sector. The events sponsored by the SETI Institute (the name stands for "search for extraterrestrial intelligence"), Unistellar and The Planetary Society aim to get a million girls to discover space. Here's Space.com's guide to many of the virtual and in-person World Space Week events. For a full list of activities, visit WorldSpaceWeek.org.

Related: Pioneering women in space: A gallery of astronaut firsts

The events sponsored by the SETI Institute, Unistellar and The Planetary Society include a fall tour of the universe, a Unistellar observation challenge and asteroid art contest, and virtual discussions with female space scientists, such as Astro Athens, AstroPartiGirl, Tanya of Mars and Aussi Astronomer. You can also download an e-book, "60 Ideas for Space Discovery," which was created for all ages to learn about astronomy and citizen science, according to the statement. 

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"There are incredible women who made significant contributions to the space sector, and with our WSW 2021 theme, we want to celebrate their accomplishments. One of our main goals is to showcase these accomplishments and give young girls and students female role models," Maruska Strah, executive director of the World Space Week Association, said in a statement. "We've been having a year-long social media campaign, celebrating women from all regions of the world, from scientists to lawyers, and I am confident that talking about women's successes is crucial if we want to inspire the next generation to become more involved with the space sector." 

"Women remain a minority among the space and tech industries, but through outreach and education, these figures can change," Whitney McChane, vice president of communications for Unistellar, said in the statement. "Among the girls we'll reach during World Space Week are the world's future asteroid hunters, Mars explorers, stellar astronomers and astrophysicists. Early exposure to the majesty of space can spark a passion in girls that lasts a lifetime."

Today, only about one-third of NASA's workforce is women, and only about 16% occupy senior roles, according to a survey from the space agency. Additionally, while women earn over 50% of all bachelor's degrees, only 21% of physics and 33% of astronomy degrees are awarded to women, according to data from the American Institute of Physics. 

However, at the SETI Institute, 37% of all employees are women and 46% of senior leadership are women, according to the statement. 

"As a young girl ~ 8 years old, I was walking along a very dark beach in the Florida Keys with my dad — as he pointed out the constellations, I remember thinking that on a planet circling one of those stars, there would be a young creature walking along their beach and seeing our sun as a star in their sky," Jill Tarter, co-founder of the SETI Institute and SETI pioneer, said in the statement. "Having a science-based view of all of us as Earthlings will foster the cooperation that will be needed to find solutions to the challenges that threaten our long future on this planet."

You can find a full list of this week's events sponsored by the three organizations online. If you participate in any of the activities, you can use the hashtag #GirlsDiscoverSpace to share your World Space Week contributions on social media. 

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Samantha Mathewson joined Space.com as an intern in the summer of 2016. She received a B.A. in Journalism and Environmental Science at the University of New Haven, in Connecticut. Previously, her work has been published in Nature World News. When not writing or reading about science, Samantha enjoys traveling to new places and taking photos! You can follow her on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13.