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NASA’s Newest Flight Director Diana Trujillo Reaches for the Stars

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By Natalie Rodgers  

When she was 17 years old, Diana Trujillo moved to the United States from her home country of Colombia. With nothing but a love for science and $300 to her name, Trujillo took on a job as a housekeeper until she enrolled at the University of Florida. Inspired by a magazine article about women working in aerospace, she decided to pursue a degree in aerospace engineering. Less than 20 years later, Trujillo is not only working for NASA but has earned a coveted title that further paves the way for Latinas in the STEM field.

Known as the first Hispanic woman immigrant to be accepted into the NASA Academy, one of the key players in the Perseverance Rover mission and the host of the first Spanish-language NASA transmission of a planetary landing, Trujillo has become one of the few people to wear the title of flight director. Under this role, Trujillo is responsible for leading teams of flight controllers, researchers and engineers to make critical decisions during the launch process. These decisions are crucial for ensuring that NASA astronauts are safe during their stay in space. Though she was certified for the role in 2022, Trujillo recently enacted her skillset, becoming the 108th flight director at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Trujillo announced her new official position via social media and her new ‘Somos Flight’ insignia. The symbol, dawned in Colombian colors, represents Trujillo’s love for her home country and her passion for expanding space exploration.

“My heart swells with pride when I think of the great achievements of this team and what lies ahead,” Trujillo told NASA. “This is the team that will write the next chapter in human history, taking us back to the Moon, Mars and beyond.”

At just 44 years old, Trujillo started working for NASA before she earned her degree. As the first Hispanic immigrant woman admitted into the NASA Academy, her knowledge and dedication earned her one of the two job offers the academy offered its students that year. She earned her bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering in 2007 and directly went to work for the Goddard Space Flight Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratory. There, she contributed to the Constellation program and worked with human and robotic space missions, especially concerning Mars exploration. Trujillo’s biggest project came with the Mars Curiosity and Perseverance Rovers. She was a rover mission lead, deputy project system engineer, and deputy team chief of engineering operations on Curiosity. She was also responsible for the robotic arm on the Perseverance Rover.

In addition to her official duties with NASA, Trujillo wanted to ensure that STEM opportunities could have a more diverse reach. In 2021, Trujillo co-created and hosted #JuntosPerseveramos, NASA’s first-ever Spanish-language broadcast of a planetary landing. This allowed more people to partake in the live footage of one of the biggest milestones in space exploration—landing a rover on Mars.

“Mars helped me understand what it means to be an explorer,” she told Colombia One. “Exploring this unknown world, taking panoramic views of its beautiful landscapes, finding the key ingredients that prove that Mars could have harbored life and then contemplating our pale blue dot in the night sky through the eyes of the rovers made me the space explorer I am today.”

Trujillo’s work is far from over with her new role as flight director and big plans for the exploration of Mars. As she leads the latest discoveries on the red planet, Trujillo will continue solidifying her name as an aerospace exploration icon.

Explore more articles for the STEM Community here.

The post NASA’s Newest Flight Director Diana Trujillo Reaches for the Stars appeared first on DiversityComm.

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