The Puerto Rico native joined NASA in 2013 as a Pathway Intern in the
Photovoltaic and Electrochemical System Branch. She volunteers at NASA’s
STEM symposiums and served as chair of the Hispanic Advisory Group for
An author of multiple research papers, Dr. Hernández-Lugo also has
several awards under her belt, including the HENAAC Great Minds in STEM
Luminary Awards, for her significant contributions to the Latino community.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot make it,” she advises. “Use
that as your fuel to show them you can actually do it and earn your place at
Dr. Yaireska Collado-Vega
Director, Moon to Mars (M2M)
Dr. Collado-Vega researches the solar wind interaction with the Earth’s
magnetic environment. She also works on validation of magnetospheric
models and developments on machine learning capabilities to improve space
weather analysis and forecasting. In addition, she provides education and
public outreach on her work.
“You can be anything you want to be but it’s not going to be easy,” she
advises. “You’re going to have to work hard and sometimes swim against
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Space Weather Office Flight director for NASA's Mars Perseverance and Aerospace engineer at
Dr. Yaireska Collado-Vega says a family trip to Orlando for her sister’s
quinceañeara changed her life. The family visited Kennedy Space
Center where she realized she wanted to work for NASA despite her
young age. People laughed at her when she told them about her aspiration
and earning a “C” in her first college physics test gave her doubts. But her
professor believed she had a bright future in physics and convinced her to give
herself another chance. It’s thanks to that professor, in part, that she is now
Director of the Moon to Mars (M2M) Space Weather Office at NASA.
Dr. Collado-Vega began her career at NASA as an intern before
becoming a permanent employee, transitioning to operations and becoming the
eventual leader of the M2M office, which was just established in 2020. The
M2M office was created to support NASA’s Space Radiation Analysis Group
with human space exploration activities by providing expert-based analysis of
the space radiation environment.
“I started the team from scratch during the pandemic. I hired new
people, trained them and we are now starting the transition of models that are
going to be used to support humans on the moon and then Mars,” she
explains. “We have to make sure everything is running smoothly operationally.”
The M2M Office provides accurate real-time experimental research
forecasting of the space environment and their probable impacts for NASA
missions. With humans returning to the moon, safety is a priority, followed by
carrying out the missions successfully.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Diana Trujillo has worked on the
team that created the robotic arm that will collect rock samples on Mars.
“What we are trying to do is go around the surface of this unknown planet
and try to find if at some point there was life on the surface of Mars,” she says
in an interview with NASA-JPL Behind the Spacecraft — Live Q&A. “I feel like
a lucky person to be working on this.”
Colombian-born Trujillo immigrated to the United States at the age of 17
to pursue her dream of working for NASA. She joined NASA in 2007 and
worked at the Goddard Space Flight Center on the Constellation program and
the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on human and robotic space missions.
She has served many roles, including Surface Sampling System Activity
Lead and Dust Removal Tool Lead Systems Engineer. She was responsible for
ensuring Curiosity's sampling fulfilled its science objectives dust-free while
maintaining operational safety. Trujillo worked as flight director on the Mars
2020 Perseverance Rover robotic arm and on February 2021, she hosted
NASA's first Spanish-language planetary landing show.
NOTE: Diana Trujillo was not available for an interview for this edition.
Photo courtesy: NASA
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20 www.latinastyle.com LATINAStyle V ol. 27, No. 3, 2021