CAPSTONE is a microwave oven-sized CubeSat (miniaturized satellite for
space research) that will ultimately help reduce risk for future spacecraft.
Guarneros Luna has been involved in several other small spacecraft
programs. She began her career as an intern at NASA Ames Research Center
working with the Center’s Chief of Technology. That experience fueled her
desire to make NASA accessible to less privileged communities through
internships and mentoring.
“I never thought of myself as an engineer when I was a single mother of four
kids and going to school to get my degree,” she says. “Getting my internship
completely changed my life.”
At her core, Flores wants to find sustainable solutions for issues like water
pollution using available technology such as satellite images or artificial
intelligence. Access to clean water is a big issue not only in Guatemala but
around the world.
“Lakes and rivers are experiencing more stress and pollution. Algae
blooms are a clear effect of that. Algae blooms have the capacity to produce
toxins, the fish can eat the algae and then the fish can be toxic as well,” she
explains. “It also reduces the amount of oxygen available for any other life form
there and it affects the whole (biological) system that is living in the water.”
Using technology, Flores’ team develops algorithms to estimate
concentration of algae and allow for preventative measures to be taken in
places like Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.
Dr. Marla E. Pérez-Davis
Director, NASA Glenn Research Center
Earth System Science Center,
University of Alabama-Huntsville
Ph.D. student at McGill University As Director of NASA Glenn Research Center, Dr. Marla E. Pérez-Davis
Originally from Guatemala, Africa Flores grew up enamored with the
biodiversity and natural richness of her home country. But even as a
young girl she noticed how badly managed the natural resources
were. For example, The Ocosito River was so highly polluted in her
small village town of Retalhuleu she had to travel nearly two miles to her
grandparents’ home in the main part of town to get clean drinking water.
“That’s where my interest in science stemmed from,” Flores says. “I
wanted to study something that could give me the skills to manage our
natural resources better.”
Today she is a Research Scientist at Earth System Science Center at the
University of Alabama in Huntsville and a Ph.D. student at McGill University.
Flores is a National Geographic Explorer charged with forecasting
harmful algae blooms in Lake Atitlán using artificial intelligence. She works
with SERVIR, a joint NASA and USAID initiative, on forest monitoring, water
quality and ecological forecasting, serving as the Land Cover Land Use Change
and Ecosystems Theme Lead. She served as co-editor of the SAR-Handbook,
a compilation of applied methodologies to use synthetic aperture radar
technology for forest monitoring and biomass estimation.
fully embraces NASA’s mission “to reach for new heights and reveal
the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind.”
She is responsible for planning, organizing and directing the activities
necessary to accomplish the Center’s mission. This includes leading a staff of
more than 3,200 civil service and support contract employees and an annual
budget of $900 million-plus. The Ohio-based Center has its main campus at
Lewis Field and a subsidiary facility in Sandusky.
The Sandusky facility is home to the Space Environments Complex (SEC),
which houses the world’s largest and most powerful space environment
simulation facilities. They include the largest space simulation vacuum
chamber, the most powerful spacecraft acoustic test chamber and the world’s
highest capacity and most powerful spacecraft shaker system.
“Back in March 2020, we completed testing for the Orion spacecraft that
will now be used for Artemis I, which is an uncrewed test flight that will go
beyond the moon,” Pérez-Davis, a Puerto Rico native, says.
Artemis is named after Apollo’s twin sister in Greek mythology and is the
program that will land the first woman and first person of color on the moon’s
The Center does testing for both NASA and commercial partners,
including lunar and Mars exploration hardware, deep space propulsion
systems, and advanced materials tests.
16 www.latinastyle.com LATINAStyle V ol. 27, No. 3, 2021