Arrived in the US without knowing English and worth $300: Today she is the Flight Director of NASA’s Moon Missions

Born Diana Trujillo in Cali, Colombia, she is an aeronautical engineer. She was selected as a flight director by NASA. He started at that space agency with a summer internship/Archives

Diana Trujillo immigrated at the age of 17 from Colombia to the United States. I only had $300 and didn’t know English. Today he is 41 years old. She is a mother and an engineer, and He was chosen as one of seven NASA flight managers To deal with the supervision of the missions that go to the International Space Station, commercial crew and From the Artemis program, which pursues an ambitious goal: to move the “first woman and next man” to the south pole of the moon in 2025.

For Trujillo, the goal of getting to the moon and the goal of humans on Mars is not impossible. Actually in your social network account Twitter It is already defined as “Mars. Latin. From Cali/Columbia to the world.” In an exclusive interview with Infobae by Zoom, She told Trujillo what she would do as flight director for Container And how he manages his emotions from a role that requires many hours of teamwork and quick decisions. He also left – humbly and sweetly – a message for girls and teens interested in issues of space and the afterlife.

She was born in Cali, Colombia, in 1981. Her mother and grandmother called her “Princess Diana” in reference to her name and that of Mrs. Dee, who that year married Carlos, Prince of Wales, in a ceremony that was an event. worldwide. Grandmother could not attend primary school as a child, and her mother could not finish university. But they passed on their support to Trujillo so that he could move forward beyond the hurdles.

As a child, she would lie on the grass and look up at the sky and ask questions about the moon, the planets, the sun, or the universe in general.  Photograph: Mario Anzoni/Reuters
As a child, she would lie on the grass and look up at the sky and ask questions about the moon, the planets, the sun, or the universe in general. Photograph: Mario Anzoni/Reuters

During her childhood, the climate of political violence in Colombia affected her, and she literally found a place of peace in heaven. Going out to play is risky. “I discovered my interest in space issues by looking at the sky”calculated. He was lying on the ground and looking up at the sky and questions were raised about the moon, the planets, the sun, or the universe in general. “How can planets and stars coexist without chaos?”he wondered.

Was she a very good student in physics and mathematics as a child? Asked Infobae. “I looked up at the sky and loved to feel the smell of the grass. He found a moment of peace. What I have always had was a curiosity to know and find answers. He replied: This is how my interest in space issues arose. “I have always loved mathematics,” he said. During his adolescence, His parents separated and he stayed with his mother. After that, she decided to live alone in the United States, working as a housecleaner and in a bakery to pay for English lessons. He lived in Miami and thought about learning English and helping his mother.

One day I came across a magazine that mentioned women working for NASA’s space agency. It was a click in his life. He attended the University of Florida to study aeronautical engineering and then studied at the University of Maryland, He was part of the robotics research team. While in college, she applied to the NASA Academy and was the first Hispanic immigrant to be accepted into the program.

I really liked math and a magazine I read about women at NASA.  Pictured with the robot Perseverance / NASA
I really liked math and a magazine I read about women at NASA. Pictured with the robot Perseverance / NASA

He admitted that being an intern at NASA served him well: “I started with a summer internship and had the opportunity to meet many people who have done different jobs. I discovered that space activity is not only unmanned ships. I loved listening to them and was very passionate about being a part of the space field,” calculated.

“I am still happy to be a part of NASA. I don’t care much about homework. I feel that I am contributing in some way to generating new knowledge and making extraterrestrial achievements.”, He expressed. “There is always a stone in the way and that makes things difficult,” he said, but there was a process of change that he had to go through. “I spent a lot of time telling myself it wasn’t for me. I don’t know. It took me a lot of work to get rid of these thoughts. It was like retraining myself to think that I could contribute beyond where I came from,” Trujillo said. and that I can cooperate.”

In addition to this change, the trait that helps her is her discipline. “Discipline and perseverance are key to doing what you want to do,” he said. He sets priorities every day, and does only what is urgent and important to the mission. He focuses on what he can do and does not compare himself to others. It’s a way of life that allows her to combine her work at NASA with her role as a mother and wife. He has two children, ages 4 and 6. Her husband works in an airline.

Within the space agency, Trujillo was mission chief of the Curiosity robot (Curiosity in Spanish) that landed on Mars in 2012 to provide information to characterize that planet’s climate, determine its geology and prepare for future human exploration.

The moment Trujillo celebrated after the successful publication of
The moment Trujillo celebrated after the successful deployment of “Creativity” sent the first helicopter to the surface of another planet / NASA

last year, Trujillo was the group’s technical supervisor for serial planning and execution and the tactical mission commander for the Mars Perseverance rover. This unmanned mission was sent to search for signs of ancient microbial life, characterize the planet’s geology and climate, and to collect samples of rocks and sediments for future return to Earth. The ship landed there in February last year and is still operating.

Trujillo co-created and hosted #JuntosPerseveramos, the first live Spanish-language broadcast of a planetary landing for Perseverance to reach Mars and attract millions of viewers around the world. She also celebrated her role as flight director when the successful deployment of Creativity, the first helicopter to be sent to the surface of another planet, was confirmed. “I still find it hard to believe everything I’ve lived through since I came here on my own when I was 17,” she admitted. Now, she is already excited about her new role.

She said, “I’m going to the flight manager.” Infobae. The change means it will not only focus on robotic missions but will also focus on missions with astronauts. to play this role, The seven newly selected directors are required to complete a comprehensive training program that includes operational leadership and risk management, as well as technical aspects of flight control and vehicle systems. Trujillo will direct manned spaceflight missions From the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

“The task is to lead teams of flight controllers, experts in research, engineering and support staff,” he said. You’ll need to make the real-time decisions necessary to keep NASA astronauts safe in space. For example, Trujillo will participate in missions to the International Space Station, and with the Artemisa mission, which will be a great challenge for humanity.

Photo of the 2022 group of flight managers at NASA.  They will oversee operations of the International Space Station, commercial crew, and Artemis missions to the Moon.  Promotion members, left to right: Heidi Brewer, Ronak Dave, Garrett Henn, Diana Trujillo, Elias Mermo, Chris Dobbins and Nicole McIlroy.  Photography: Robert Markowitz (NASA).
Photo of the 2022 group of flight managers at NASA. They will oversee operations of the International Space Station, commercial crew, and Artemis missions to the Moon. Promotion members, left to right: Heidi Brewer, Ronak Dave, Garrett Henn, Diana Trujillo, Elias Mermo, Chris Dobbins and Nicole McIlroy. Photography: Robert Markowitz (NASA).

“It’s the job as a manager, there are protocols to follow, but there are decisions to be made when situations change. In a way, it’s like the job of surgeons who handle operations and have to make quick decisions.” commented.

Artemis software consists of several tasks. The first, Artemis I, is an unmanned mission to return humans to the Moon. Meanwhile, Artemis II It will be a manned mission that will fly over the moon, and Artemis III will transport astronauts to the lunar surface. In this program, NASA has as international partners the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, the Brazilian Space Agency, the Australian Space Agency, and the Mexican Space Agency.

One of the first pieces in the Artemis III mission, which will take a woman and a man to land on the moon / NASA
One of the first pieces in the Artemis III mission, which will take a woman and a man to land on the moon / NASA

Trujillo feels accompanied and encouraged by her home country and colleagues in the United States. In 2021, he was awarded the Cruz de Boyaca, the highest honor bestowed by the Colombian government on its citizens, and artists such as Juanes have publicly expressed their admiration for him. She also participates in initiatives that promote girls and teens to pursue careers in STEM fields in her home country and from NASA.

What message do you get when you talk to girls and teens? “Space belongs to everyone. There are no limitations and we can all help discover and explore it. There are questions and problems to solve and we need different perspectives”to reply.

“I like to share that every woman can have dreams big or small. The important thing is to appreciate that dream, to read, to find people who can help you do what you want and to see what path each one might take.” Trujillo always follows his grandmother’s advice: “Do it, Mega.” Without a doubt, I played for work.

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