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San Diego City College alumni will be the first Mexican-born woman in space

Ever since she was little, Katya Echazarreta has always looked at the stars and dreamed of going to space

“Even my middle name is Celeste, which means from heaven,” she said. “It’s just been part of me for my whole life”

On May 20, his dream of going into space will finally come true.

Echazarreta will head to space aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin Rocket as a citizen science astronaut after being selected from 7,000 applicants by Space For Humanity, an organization focused on creating a more inclusive space. .

Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Echazarreta is the first Mexican-born woman to travel in space. It’s an honor she doesn’t take lightly because for years people have told her space isn’t for her.

“To be able to do that is to change that narrative to the point where a little girl from Mexico who may be from the same town I was born in, tells her parents or her teacher that she wants to go to space. and that she doesn’t hear those words again,” she said.

She moved to the United States at age 7 and never forgot her dream. She first focused on electrical engineering at San Diego City College before transferring to UCLA. She is currently earning a master’s degree in engineering at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

At every turn, Echazarreta sought opportunities to get closer to space travel. After graduating from UCLA, she turned an internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) into a full-time job as a NASA engineer.

I was able to work on five NASA missions in one year after being at JPL as a full-time engineer,” she said.

Echazarreta, who among other things is also a TikTok star and host of a Netflix science program, enjoys using her platform to challenge stereotypes of women in STEM.

For years, teachers and co-workers told her she had to “look the part” and dress professionally, which she internalized by refusing to have her nails done and always wearing pants.

“How each of us chooses to dress really has nothing to do with what we’re capable of and what our job looks like,” she said.

She now embraces the aspects of herself that she must have felt challenged, her intelligence and her professionalism.

“I love doing my nails and even now I have So Blue Origin inspired nails,” she said, showing off her manicure. “I love using it as a way to express myself.”

Echazarreta wants everyone to feel welcome in STEM and in space, because although she may be the first Mexican-born woman to go into space, she is convinced that she will not be the last. last.

I don’t want it to be me going into space and having this experience for myself,” she said. “I want everyone to come join me.”

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