Inspiring story of an immigrant that leaves a mark on NASA 7: 35
(CNN Spanish) – When NASA's Perseverance vehicle arrived this Thursday on the surface of Mars, it not only achieved a space milestone but also fulfilled the dream of a Colombian. Caleña Diana Trujillo arrived alone in the United States at the age of 17, without knowing English, $ 300 in her pocket, and a clear first objective: not to starve.
Today is a key member of the team that designed and examined the robotic arm and Two instruments of the American space agency explorer, called Pixl and Sherloc, which are part of the Mars 2020 mission.
Guillermo Arduino interviewed her about her role in the mission and her inspiring story of effort and self-improvement.
Guillermo Arduino: You The role has to do mainly with Perseverance, who is the robot, what is he going to do once he hits Martian soil?
Diana Trujillo Well, the goal of the Perseverance mission is to find out if there ever was life on the surface of Mars in the past. We are going to arrive at a place called Jezero crater . In that crater we are going to do research because there is clay in that place where it lets us know that there is water, where we can see if there is the possibility or the necessary clues to prove that there was life. If we find that, we're also going to do the research to find out if life probably started on Mars and on Earth at the same time. So we have a very interesting question to answer.
Guillermo Arduino: When you say life you mean it could be microbes, because the existence of water is confirmed, right?
Diana Trujillo: The existence of water is confirmed. The kind of life I'm talking about is microbial life. Exactly
Guillermo Arduino: Super interesting. They also carry a helicopter: Ingenuity. What about Ingenuity? I understand that it can be transported, is much smaller, and can go independently with solar power to other nearby parts of Mars.
Diana Trujillo: Yes, Ingenuidad or Ingenuity is the helicopter that we carry with Perseverance and the idea is that it is a helicopter that flies for 90 seconds, goes up vertically, takes photos and comes back and goes down; it transmits the photos to the robot brain and lets us know what it saw, and in addition to that, how much battery it has and what other communication capabilities it can do. But the attempt is to show that we have the ability to fly on another planet.
6 things to know about the helicopter heading to Mars 1: 38
Guillermo Arduino: And within this great expedition, what is your job?
Diana Trujillo: I work with the group that designed and examined the robotic arm and the two instruments called Pixl and Sherloc. Those are the instruments that will show us and find out if there was life on the surface of Mars. So my group is the one that has to show where to put the instrument, do all the research with the instrument and return the information.
NASA astronaut explains the mission to Mars 3:12 He arrived in the United States without knowing English
Guillermo Arduino: How was it, how were your beginnings so that suddenly a girl from Cali decided to study engineering in the United States and arrive at NASA?
Diana Trujillo: Yes. It's like you just said it: I see it as a dream that was never going to happen, but somehow it happens. I came to the United States when I was 17 years old. I didn't know English and I ended up looking for a way to learn the language, to be able to pay for college and eventually study something that was related to the people that I saw who worked at NASA. I worked with a program to carry cargo to the Space Station, then Curiosity and now Mars 2020 and sometimes I don't believe it when I start to think that I had nothing and didn't even know the language.
Guillermo Arduino: And did you arrive alone or did you come with someone?
Diana Trujillo: Well, I came to the United States alone, and I think that made me focus on what I wanted to do and how to do it.
Guillermo Arduino: What did your parents do or do they do?
Diana Trujillo: My mother lives with me now and my father lives in Colombia, he is an accountant and my mother is with us here
Violence in Colombia led her to look at the stars
Guillermo Arduino: In other words, where does the space engineering or scientific engineering profile come from?
Diana Trujillo: Well, look, for me it comes from the fact that living in Colombia in the 80s, where there was a lot of violence, looking into space and looking at the sky, it is something that gives one peace, regardless of where you are. You lie on the floor, you look at the stars and the starry sky. It's just spectacular and it's passive, and you don't see the stars hitting each other. So I always wondered how that works, how is it that stars, planets can coexist together and not have chaos? And that's where it started for me.
Guillermo Arduino: What was the moment you knew that this was what I wanted to be: work at NASA?
Diana Trujillo: You know I don't have an exact moment in which I said: it's NASA. For me it was more like: it's the place where this is done. Finding that I wanted to do the space thing is what I just told you, but knowing that it was NASA, that was the only place that was clear to me that it did what I wanted to do. NASA in general, as you know, seeks to explore, not trying to win something or go to battle on another planet or something like that. It is the fact that we want to explore as human beings, and that idea that it is simply to learn, is what made me think of NASA.
Guillermo Arduino: And you came to the United States, when you were 17 years old. With how much money in your pocket?
Diana Trujillo: I only had $ 300 in my pocket. It was all I had
Guillermo Arduino: And what could you do with the 300 at that time?
Diana Trujillo: Probably just paying the rent and it's over. Ah, but no, no .. I mean, practically nothing. I had to go immediately to look for a job
Guillermo Arduino: In what city?
Diana Trujillo: Miami
Guillermo Arduino: You arrived in Miami with $ 300 in your pocket. You started working. From the beginning, from the beginning you knew that actually… because it happened to me. Did you come with a contract and visa or how was your case?
Diana Trujillo: No, my case was different. And I tell you one thing: if I had come here in first class, with all payment I would not have done what I am doing. My job requires me to come up with something that we have not done, that has not happened, that has not occurred to anyone, that we have never seen. Start from scratch. Starting from not even having the idea of how to do it and looking for the way, is what the way I think did, and how I see the problems, it fits perfectly with what we have to do. Well, sometimes we are in operations and something happens with the robot, and we have to meet, and the question is: has anyone seen this? Never, never, not even the writings, not even the experiments that have been done for years have shown this problem and we had to solve it in half an hour.
Guillermo Arduino: When you arrived in the United States then and landed in Miami, what was your target?
Diana Trujillo: When I arrived in the United States, my goal was to help Mom. To tell you the truth, the first objective was not to starve. That was very clear to me in my head that what I had to survive, I had to be sure that I had where to live and where to eat, because I had no idea about those basic things that were still going to happen and work, learn the language and help mom. That's all I had in mind. After that, I was doing really well with college, learning English. I did not know that I had such good grades and the teachers were the ones who told me that I had to apply and see other things and see if I could do something with my life. I used to spend time in the math department because I was bored of learning English and I would sit there to help whoever came in, because if someone has a mathematical question, I would answer because I did not need to speak in any language, simply the numbers are the themselves. But that's where I realized what I like
Guillermo Arduino: Shyness is not one of your characteristics, then.
Diana Trujillo: No, the truth, the truth, I think I got over it.
Guillermo Arduino: But it's very good …
Diana Trujillo: Hahaha .
Guillermo Arduino: Sure, because it helped you to be who you are today.
Diana Trujillo: Yes, but do you know what is interesting about the question and why does it make me laugh? I think that giving up shyness was what made me what I am today. I was a shy person and facing that and realizing that it was making me more problems instead of helping me was that it helped me overcome it.
Guillermo Arduino. You also grew up alone and suddenly. When you look back to see: the day before coming to the United States, at seventeen, how do you see that Diana? How do you feel about it?
Diana Trujillo: Well, when I look back I don't remember, I wanted to go now. It was more like waiting for the time to come up to get on the plane. No, I didn't see how I'm going to go, everything was left behind. It was the opposite. It was: something is coming and I have to get ready. So I saw it as an opportunity
Guillermo Arduino: How do you see Diana in the future? Where it goes?
Diana Trujillo: Well, first I want to be in the place, in the room, when we find that there was life on the surface of Mars. I do not want to miss it. But after there I think there are many other projects that I am doing. I want to see if I can start working with the astronauts to go to the space station and probably when it's time to go to Mars or the Moon first. And after that, also look at how I work with the organization that I am in at the Brooke Owens Fellowship, which is an organization to help women get into space companies when they are in college.
Guillermo Arduino: You also have a commitment to social responsibility and that requires generosity and not selfishness. I want this conversation to be inspiring for others, for children, for example, from Colombia, or from Argentina or Chile.
Diana Trujillo: Yes, absolutely. I think that sometimes, sometimes one does not realize or it takes a long time to realize that the human being is made of many things and is made of I want to do well at work, but I want to give to my community and I want to be well in my family and I want and I want and I want, I want and I want. Everything can be done. It's simply how to manage time
Guillermo Arduino: And finally the part in personal life: are there really important personal sacrifices to realize these professional achievements or not, or is there a balance, a balance?
Diana Trujillo: I really like your question because it is very similar to what I was thinking when I answered the previous one and it is the fact that it is a balance, it is a balance as to what are all the things I want to do, how I want to distribute, how much time am I going to dedicate. I am a person that I do not like, when they say good, it is that women cannot have everything. And that, that is not the case, they cannot have everything at the same time, but we can have everything, and what you have to do is fix yourself. My mother lives with us, I have two children and she helps us. Perfect. Well, there it is, there is the most important answer for those who are looking for an excuse or find an excuse not to go ahead. Diana's case is very clear and she spoke of the balance between the professional and the personal. We know you have a meeting in two minutes, so we let you go. Diana Trujillo of NASA. Thank you very much, very good luck. I loved the talk, very inspiring and I hope we can talk when the success of this mission and your participation in it is realized. And thanks for everything.