This article appeared in the March 08, 2021 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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In Mars mission, two more nods to trailblazing women

Diana Trujillo, an aerospace engineer working on the Perseverance Mars mission, also produces a Spanish-language video program from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. She came to the U.S. from Colombia as a teenager and joined NASA in 2007.
Clayton Collins
Director of Editorial Innovation

Perseverance and ingenuity were the values chosen for the names of two critical exploration tools of the current Mars mission: a rover and a rotorcraft, respectively. 

Respect and equality have surfaced around this mission too, in ways that feel like inspiring extensions of the “Hidden Figures” saga that uncloaked the important early roles of women in supporting space exploration.

On Friday, NASA informally named the Perseverance landing site for the late Octavia Butler, the first Black woman to win the Hugo and Nebula awards and the first science fiction writer to win a MacArthur Fellowship.  

“[Her] pioneering work explores themes of race, gender equality in humanity, centering on the experiences of Black women at a time when such voices were largely absent from science fiction,” said Katie Stack Morgan, a deputy project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. At a press conference, she called Ms. Butler “a perfect fit for the Perseverance rover mission and its theme of overcoming challenges.”

When Perseverance touched down last month, the feat was described in real-time by JPL aerospace engineer Diana Trujillo, a member of the team that created the robotic arm that will gather rock samples. The Spanish-language broadcast was a NASA first for a planetary landing.

Ms. Trujillo came to the United States as a teenager with $300 to her name. She worked as a housekeeper and studied. She made it to NASA in 2007, another tenacious pioneer.

“The abuelas, the moms or dads, the uncles ... everyone has to see this,” she says in a video, “[so] that they can turn around to the younger generation and say, ‘She can do it, you can do it.’”

This article appeared in the March 08, 2021 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 03/08 edition
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