Mountain Views News, Combined Edition Saturday, March 13, 2021

MVNews this week:  Page 15

Mountain Views News Saturday, March 13, 2021 15MARCH IS WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH Mountain Views News Saturday, March 13, 2021 15MARCH IS WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH 

By Christopher Brito 

When NASA's Perseverance rover successfully 
landed on Mars last week, aerospace engineer 
Diana Trujillo, who is a flight director on the 
mission, said in an interview with CBS News 
that it took her some time to process that it had 
arrived on the red planet. 

"I was very much on the mindset of 'What's happening?'" 
she said. Then as pictures and videos 
from Perseverance started to beam back, it became 

"Are we safe? I think that watching the image 
was when I actually pro-cessed that we had 
actually landed," she added. The landing only 
marked the beginning of Perseverance's stop on 
Mars, but playing a leadership role in the historic 
mission to find life there was decades in 
the making for Trujillo. Her dreams of reaching 
space and wanting to understand the universe 
came as a young person in Cali, Colombia. Her 
parents were di-vorcing and as a 17-year-old, 
she decided to go to the United States, ar-riving 
with only $300 and not speaking any English. 
She worked house-keeping jobs to pay for her 
studies and later joined NASA in 2007. 

Trujillo is now part of NASA's Jet Propulsion 
Lab and worked on the team that created the 
robotic arm that will collect rock samples on 
Mars. "Understanding if we're alone in the universe 
is the ultimate question," she said. "I hope 
that within the one year of surface operations on 

Mars, we can answer that question soon."
She said her experience early on as an immigrant motivates her to give her best always, especially when coming from a country that had limited opportunities.
"I saw everything coming my way as an opportunity," she said. "I didn't see it as, 'I can't believe I'm doing this job at night,' or 'I can't believe that I'm cleaning. I can't believe that I'm cleaning 
a bathroom right now.' It was just more like, 'I'm glad that I have a job and I can buy food and and have a house to sleep.' And so, I think that all of those things make me, and even today, 
helps me see life differently. I see it more as every instant I need to be present because every instance matters." 

Part of the reason she wanted to get into the space field was to prove some family members wrong.
"I wanted my — especially the males of my own family — to recognize that women add value," she said, adding, "it came from wanting to prove to them that we matter."
However, her motivations would later evolve as a college student. She remembered being on the line to declare her major at the University of Florida and not knowing what she wanted 
to do. When Trujillo reached the dean, she saw a magazine that had images of female astronauts, a space shuttle and Earth — and that was when she picked aerospace engi-neering as her 
major. She also noticed the line was filled with people who didn't speak Spanish nor looked Hispanic, and she was one of the few women on the queue.
"It was very petrifying because you're doing this ginormously long line and every step of the way, you're [thinking] like, 'You shouldn't be here ... why are you here,'" she said.
Throughout her career, a similar theme followed: She'd be one of the few Latinas working in science. Now, she knows whenever she's working as one of the surface flight directors for Perseverance, 
she's representing more than just herself. 

"I know I'm not walking in there alone," she said. "I'm walking in there and every single thing that I do, I'm representing my country, my culture, my heritage, my people, and I have to give 
my best every single time."
"I get to elevate and amplify my culture and all the countries that speak Spanish by sending a message to everybody that we're here, we're pre-sent," she added. 

According to the Student Research Foundation, Hispanics hold only 8% of the STEM workforce — of which Hispanic women only comprise 2%. Trujillo believes the way to break the glass 
ceiling is to have more role models. That influenced her decision to be host of NASA's first-ever Spanish language broadcast for a planetary landing last Thursday. The show was called 
"Juntos perseveramos," or "Together we persevere," and it garnered more than 2.5 million views on YouTube. She's even gotten the attention of fellow countrywoman and global music star 
"The more hers there are, the more engineers and scientists that are Latin are out there, the more chances we have for those kids to have la chispa, where they say, 'I want to be that," she said.
She believes more visibility of Latinos in STEM will allow families to encourage younger members to follow in those steps, rather than stereo-typical roles men and women have been told 
to follow. 

"The abuelas, the moms or dads, the uncles, los primos, like everyone has to see this," she said. "And they have to see a woman in there, too. So, that they can turn around to the younger 
generation and say she can do it, you can do it." 
Trujillo hopes to one day reach space, but she feels a special calling in helping bring more women in science and engineering. 
"Life has always given me the opportunities that are the right ones for me, so we'll see what comes next," she said.
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for CBS News, focusing on sports and stories that involve issues of race and culture. 


Local author Joan Frederick of Sierra Madre has recently published a 
retrospective look at 200 women from 1895 until the present and their 
impact on the development of Sierra Madre, and the social/philanthrop-
ic group The Priscillas. There are lots of photos, history and info about 
where they lived as well as early history of Sierra Madre. 

Call 626-355-2455and arrange to buy a copy ($20) today! 

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