Diana Trujillo’s ‘take-off,’ from cleaning toilets in the U.S. to leading a mission on Mars
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 real.
At the young age of 17, she made her way from the violent streets of Cali, Colombia to the United States with only $300 in her pocket. She worked many jobs including that of a housekeeper to pay for an education in engineering at the University of Florida. With help from tutors and mentors, she applied to the NASA Academy, and to her surprise, she was accepted. Trujillo then joined NASA as an engineer in 2008.
“How the dream is going to evolve is going to change but the dream doesn’t change. And the dream doesn’t change if you hold onto it and you have the perseverance to maintain it,” she told us.
In her second mission, it took her team of engineers two years of long days and nights to create the robotic arm for the Mars Perseverance Rover that will bring back soil samples from the Red Planet to learn if there once was life there.
“Understanding how to use instruments we have never seen before and an arm that is 7-foot long was certainly a challenge but we definitely made it work,” she said.
Trujillo is now caught in a whirlwind of fame as she helps propel Latinas into a space that’s not easily conquered. Her nonprofit, the Brooke Owens Fellowship, looks to encourage girls to explore science and add more women of color to the industry.
“I didn’t see many Latinas that I could look up to and say I want to be like her, let me follow her, let me read about her,” said Trujillo.
Now we have her story to inspire us to accomplish our dreams on earth and beyond