Diana Trujillo's 'take-off,' from cleaning toilets in the U.S. to leading a mission on Mars
The life of this Colombian migrant lives up to the name of the Martian exploration Rover that NASA launched last July 30th and in whose design she helped create, "Perseverance."
At age 17, with $300 in her pocket and unable to speak English, Diana Trujillo left Colombia in search of a better future for her and her mother. It was the year 2000, George Bush was about to become president of the United States, and the census pointed to a colossal increase in the Latino population in the country, although life for migrants like Diana was still as difficult then as it is now.
As a child, she used to look up at the sky in the starry night to calm down in the midst of the "very violent" situation the country was going through. After arriving in the U.S., she continued to look at that starry night, looking for ways to earn some money with domestic work. She worked three jobs.
"It never occurred to me in my life that I could move from cleaning houses to this situation by working with 'Mars Rover 2020,'" Trujillo told La Opinión.
However, two decades after 'landing' in the U.S., the now-aerospace engineer is leading the team responsible for designing a robotic arm that extracts materials from the red planet and is part of the Rover Perseverance, which NASA launched on July 30 and will reach Mars in mid-February.
Persevering like her, the robot collects materials from the planet on its mission that, according to Trujillo, will allow humanity to know if there was ever life on Mars.
"I feel extremely happy to be part of a group that can change history," the Colombian woman said in a video published by NASA.
But how did Diana Trujillo go from a difficult life as an illegal migrant in the U.S. to becoming a space pioneer?
Diana saved for years to pay for her space science studies at the University of Florida, and thanks to her good grades, the institution took over the financing.
She had a clear goal, she wanted to become an astronaut.
"I was told that there was an internship at the NASA Academy. The application was very long, no less than 300 words per question. I didn't know much English," the engineer explained to La Opinión.
Diana decided to give up, thinking she would not be accepted because her English was not excellent. But a friend who knew her dreams got into her computer and sent the application.
As fate would have it, Trujillo was selected for the internship in 2006, and became the first Latina immigrant to be part of the program, which led her to meet astronauts, scientists and even a NASA launch.
The Curiosity mission is not simple, there are many challenges to overcome. But neither is life, and like space, it also has its mysteries.