Suggested Searches

3 min read

Johnson Celebrates LGBTQI+ Pride Month: Meet Maya FarrHenderson

Maya FarrHenderson’s first day at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston involved the usual new hire setup and training tasks, but also something special: A tour of the CHAPEA (Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog) and HERA (Human Exploration Research Analog) habitats.

“It was such a thrill to start my career at NASA standing in a simulated Martian habitat. It felt like a look toward the future – a reminder of this is where we are going,” she said.

A young woman stands in front of the open door of a simulated Mars habitat at Johnson Space Center.
Maya FarrHenderson stands outside of the CHAPEA (Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog) habitat at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
Image courtesy of Maya FarrHenderson

As a contract research coordinator working with the Behavioral Health and Performance Laboratory under the Human Health and Performance Contract, FarrHenderson directly contributes to both CHAPEA and HERA. She supports data collection and analysis for multiple research projects conducted in those analog environments, as well as in-flight research aboard the International Space Station. “Our work excites me because we have the opportunity to answer questions that will support long-duration spaceflight missions and future missions to Mars,” she said. “It is gratifying to know our research can build an evidence base that will help promote both physiological and mental health and reduce risks related to human spaceflight.”

FarrHenderson enjoys the dynamic nature of her role, noting that aspects of her work can change on a weekly basis. “I also work with different labs and teams apart from my own, and I always find it interesting to see the varying perspectives and approaches to problem solving that come from different disciplines,” she said.

FarrHenderson is relatively new to NASA – she joined the Johnson team in April 2023 – but she has already connected with several of the center’s employee resource groups (ERGs) and currently serves as the Out & Allied ERG’s (OAERG) membership secretary. “Being on the leadership team for Out & Allied has really helped me jump in feet first,” she said. Her role involves creating social events for the ERG’s members and the broader Johnson community. “It can be a small thing, but I believe our events create spaces for people to feel safe and celebrated among coworkers and friends.”

A young woman sits inside the airlock on the side of a lunar rover mockup.
Maya FarrHenderson sits in a mockup of NASA’s space exploration vehicle concept.
Image courtesy of Maya FarrHenderson

FarrHenderson speaks from personal experience. When she started at NASA, she was uncertain if she would feel safe being out at work, but seeing how active OAERG was and how the agency celebrated LGBTQI+ Pride Month made her feel much more comfortable. Joining the ERG’s leadership team also enabled her to meet people across different organizations and gain a better understanding of the Johnson and NASA community.

She understands that some colleagues may hesitate to join an ERG because they do not identify as part of the community the group represents, but those individuals could still be allies. “Allies have a critical responsibility to aid progress in diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) initiatives,” she said. “OAERG even has ally in the name, that is how important it is to be there for groups you are not necessarily a part of. Listen and learn from members, determine how you can collaborate, and follow through.”

FarrHenderson believes that leadership’s support for ERGs and facilitation of events like Johnson’s recent DEIA Day have created a welcoming environment. Ensuring the center’s facilities reflect that environment, including increasing gender-neutral bathroom availability onsite, would promote even greater inclusivity, she said. She also encourages team members to use every opportunity to support those who are underrepresented. “Allyship and collaboration are truly key,” she said. “It is lots and lots of small moments that contribute to a more equitable and inclusive environment.”