She came to the U.S. with only $300 and worked housekeeping jobs to pay for school. Now she’s a flight director for NASA’s Mars Perseverance

When NASA’s Perseverance rover efficiently landed on Mars final week, aerospace engineer Diana Trujillo, who’s a flight director on the mission, mentioned in an interview with CBS Information that it took her a while to course of that it had arrived on the crimson planet.  

“I used to be very a lot on the mindset of ‘What’s occurring?'” she mentioned. Then as photos and movies from Perseverance began to beam again, it grew to become actual.

“Are we protected? I feel that watching the picture was after I truly processed that we had truly landed,” she added.

The touchdown solely marked the start of Perseverance’s cease on Mars, however enjoying a management function within the historic mission to search out life there was a long time within the making for Trujillo. Her desires of reaching area and wanting to grasp the universe got here as a youngster in Cali, Colombia. Her mother and father had been divorcing and as 17-year-old, she determined to go to the US, arriving with solely $300 and never talking any English. She labored housekeeping jobs to pay for her research and later joined NASA in 2007.

Trujillo is now a part of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and labored on the group that created the robotic arm that can gather rock samples in Mars. “Understanding if we’re alone within the universe is the last word query,” she mentioned. “I hope that inside the one yr of floor operations on Mars, we will reply that query quickly.”

She mentioned her expertise early on as an immigrant motivates her to present her greatest at all times, particularly when coming from a rustic that had restricted alternatives.

“I noticed the whole lot coming my manner as a possibility,” she mentioned. “I did not see it as, ‘I am unable to imagine I am doing this job at evening,’ or ‘I am unable to imagine that I am cleansing. I am unable to imagine that I am cleansing a rest room proper now.’ It was simply extra like, ‘I am glad that I’ve a job and I can purchase meals and and have a home to sleep.’ And so, I feel that each one of these issues make me, and even immediately, helps me see life in another way. I see it extra as each prompt I have to be current as a result of each occasion issues.”

A part of the rationale she needed to get into the area subject was to show some members of the family incorrect.

“I needed my — particularly the males of my family — to acknowledge that ladies add worth,” she mentioned, including, “it got here from eager to show to them that we matter.”

Nonetheless, her motivations would later evolve as a school scholar. She remembered being on the road to declare her main on the College of Florida and never understanding what she needed to do. When Trujillo reached the dean, she noticed {a magazine} that had photographs of feminine astronauts, an area shuttle and Earth — and that was when she picked aerospace engineering as her main. She additionally observed the road was stuffed with individuals who did not converse Spanish nor appeared Hispanic, and she or he was one of many few girls on the queue.

“It was very petrifying since you’re doing this ginormously lengthy line and each step of the way in which, you are [thinking] like, ‘You should not be right here … why are you right here,'” she mentioned.

All through her profession, an analogous theme adopted: She’d be one of many few Latinas working in science. Now, she is aware of every time she’s working as one of many floor flight administrators for Perseverance, she’s representing extra than simply herself. 

“I do know I am not strolling in there alone,” she mentioned. “I am strolling in there and each single factor that I do, I am representing my nation, my tradition, my heritage, my folks, and I’ve to present my greatest each single time.

“I get to raise and amplify my tradition and all of the international locations that talk Spanish by sending a message to all people that we’re right here, we’re current,” she added.

In keeping with the Pupil Analysis Basis, Hispanics maintain solely 8% of the STEM workforce — of which Hispanic girls solely comprise 2%. Trujillo believes the way in which to interrupt the glass ceiling is to have extra function fashions. That influenced her determination to be host of NASA’s first-ever Spanish language broadcast for a planetary touchdown final Thursday. The present was referred to as “Juntos perseveramos,” or “Collectively we persevere,” and it garnered greater than 2.5 million views on YouTube. She’s even gotten the eye of fellow countrywoman and international music star Shakira

“The extra hers there are, the extra engineers and scientists which are Latin are on the market, the extra possibilities we’ve for these children to have la chispa, the place they are saying, ‘I wish to be that,” she mentioned.

Juntos perseveramos: El aterrizaje del rover Perseverance en Marte by
NASA en Español on

She believes extra visibility of Latinos in STEM will permit households to encourage youthful members to observe in these steps, fairly than stereotypical roles women and men have been informed to observe. 

“The abuelas, the mothers or dads, the uncles, los primos, like everybody has to see this,” she mentioned. “And so they need to see a lady in there, too. So, that they’ll flip round to the youthful technology and say she will be able to do it, you are able to do it.” 

Trujillo hopes to sooner or later attain area, however she feels a particular calling in serving to carry extra girls in science and engineering. 

“Life has at all times given me the alternatives which are the best ones for me, so we’ll see what comes subsequent,” she mentioned.

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