Latino Voices

At 26, She Became the First Mexican-Born Woman to Travel to Space. Now She’s Working to Encourage the Next Generation


At 26, She Became the First Mexican-Born Woman to Travel to Space. Now She’s Working to Encourage the Next Generation

Many kids dream of blasting off into space one day — and Katya Echazarreta was no exception.

Fulfilling the promise she made to herself as a child, she became the first Mexican-born woman to travel to space — after landing her dream job at NASA as a test engineer.

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Now, Echazarreta is dedicated to showing other women the sky’s the limit when it comes to reaching their goals.

“You never know what kind of doors you’re going to be able to open from opportunities that maybe are not necessarily for you in the moment,” Echazarreta said.

That’s how she carved her path to NASA. When she interviewed for a position that wasn’t in her particular field, her enthusiasm and passion for the work led NASA to create a job that fit her skills.

And her passion didn’t stop there.

Echazarreta was selected to join the crew of Blue Origin’s NS-21 flight through Space for Humanity. The experience is one she said she won’t soon forget.

“I realized that the person I was from zero to 26, I left her in space,” Echazarreta said. “I’m not that person anymore. I’m a person that is just so much more human, I care so much about everything and others.”

Echazarreta continues her mission today by encouraging girls to follow their interest in STEM careers.

“I’ve been working every single day since then to create real and substantial change to be able to ensure that other people are going to be able to have that opportunity,” Echazarreta said. “The little girls that are currently watching us do everything that we’re doing, I want it to be easier for them to actually make it to the point where I currently am.”

Echazarreta was in Chicago this week speaking about girls in STEM at the Social Innovation Summit, which brings together corporate, nonprofit and government leaders to address global challenges.


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