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Advocate contributor Austin Mardon earns prestigious NASA award

A highly decorated Alberta professor and Red Deer Advocate contributor Austin Mardon has earned a prestigous honour from NASA. (Contributed photo)

Red Deer Advocate contributor Austin Mardon has been awarded a prestigious honour by NASA.

Mardon, an acting member of the faculty of U of A Medicine, Member of the Order of Canada (CM), and Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada was honoured earlier this week at a ceremony.

Mardon received the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Medal for his outstanding scholarship and unwavering commitment to these principles in community organizations and among marginalized groups.

According to an information package provided by NASA, Mardon’s long list of accomplishments and history of advocacy make him a worthy recipient.

“As President of the nonprofit Antarctic Institute of Canada, Austin has spearheaded over $4 million CAD in internship programs aimed at enhancing student writing and literacy skills while exploring the impacts of COVID-19 on society and issues especially pertinent to NASA including space economics, climate change, and resource distribution,” NASA said the package.

“To date, this initiative provided employment to over 600 Canadian and international students. Notably, many of these students hailed from marginalized communities, encompassing racial, cultural, ethnic, and sexual minorities, as well as disabled individuals. Dr. Mardon’s influence engenders the next generation with skills to navigate transitions from traditional education to practical experience.”

At 24, Mardon was a part of an expedition to Antarctica aimed at recovering blue ice surficial meteorites.

“This expedition was a resounding success, resulting in the discovery of over 700 meteorites. However, the journey left him severely handicapped both physically and mentally,” the award package explained.

Mardon has since dedicated his life to the “mental health and disability communities, carrying the banner of space and science, exemplifies a model of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) deserving of recognition.”

Mardon has published two books on a historical effort to deploy a crew with disabilities on the first zero-gravity parabolic flight as a progression to empower space travel for those with physical and mental handicaps. He has also been published over 500 times in a wide array of subjects.

“In doing so, he bolsters awareness and sets precedents for involving individuals that would otherwise be excluded from humankind’s common cause to venture beyond,” NASA said.

Mardon has also worked with the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities, and the Alberta Mental Health Self-Help Network.

“Over nearly three decades, he has delivered countless speeches addressing disabilities and DEIA concerns, using his own experiences to break down barriers for those facing similar challenges.”

About the Author: Red Deer Advocate Staff

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