Ten Latin Americans with an indelible mark on NASA

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In the history of NASA, there are several Latin Americans who have left an indelible mark, either as astronauts or as research scientists. We remember a handful of them, presenting them in chronological order.

Most are born in Latin American territory, others are children of Latinos who immigrated to the United States. All were key in space programs of the North American agency.

One by one, these are their names and their most important contributions.

Humberto Fernandez-Moran (Venezuela)

Fernández-Morán (1924-1999) was a biophysicist and doctor who created the diamond scalpel, used in the Apollo Program to study lunar rocks. He was trained in Germany, the United States and Sweden, and was a research professor at the University of Chicago, also teaching at MIT. His studies are recorded In the following link NASA Technical Information Service.

Hector Rafael Rojas (Venezuela)

Doctor in Astrophysics from the Sorbonne University, he worked as a mathematician for the NASA Apollo Program. Rojas (1928-1991) was key in the calculations of the landing site of the Apollo XI Mission. All his contributions are registered In the following link NASA Technical Information Service.

Franklin Chang-Diaz (Costa Rica)

He is the first Latin American to be selected as an astronaut at NASA (1981), although he traveled to space for the first time in 1986, on the STS 61-C Mission of the Shuttle Columbia. He was born in Costa Rica in 1950, and holds a Doctor of Science from the University of Connecticut, as well as a Doctor of Laws from Babson College.

Rodolfo Neri Vela (Mexico)

The first Mexican astronaut to go to space and the second Latin American person, behind the Cuban cosmonaut Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez. Born in Chilpancingo de los Bravos (1952), he was part of the STS-61-B Mission of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, in 1985. He later participated in the design of the Alpha Space Station (ESA).

Ellen Ochoa (Mexico)

First woman of Latin American origin to go into space. Ochoa (1958) was born in Los Angeles, but is the granddaughter of Mexicans. He participated in four missions into space: STS-56 (1993), STS-66 (1994), STS-96 (1999) and STS-110 (2002), accumulating almost a thousand flight hours. She was appointed director of the Johnson Space Center in 2013.

Miguel San Martin (Argentina)

Born in Villa Regina, Argentina (1959), San Martín is an electronic engineer and researcher at NASA, where he participated in the design and development of control systems for exploration vehicles, including four missions to Mars. He is chief of engineering and control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he has worked since 1985.

Eduardo Bendeck (Chile)

Mechanical engineer with mention in astrophysics, the Chilean Bendek is a research scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, with more than 10 years in the development of astronomical instrumentation material. He is also a founding partner of Yx Ltda, a manufacturer of advanced telecommunications hardware devices.

Diana Trujillo (Colombia)

Born in Cali, Colombia (1981), aerospace engineer Diana Trujillo Pomerantz is the leader of NASA’s Curiosity Mission, exploring the surface and atmosphere of the planet Mars. He leads the team of engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in charge of the Perseverance rover’s robotic arm.

Aracely Quispe Neira (Peru)

Astronautical engineer born in Marripón, Lambayeque, Peru (1982). She is the first Latin American to lead three successful NASA missions: the Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission (TRMM), the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and the James Webb Space Telescope. He served as senior spaceflight operations and systems engineer at the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope.

Rosa Avalos-Warren (Peru)

Lima’s Rosa Ávalos-Warren is an aerospace engineer from Virginia Tech and has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Rice University. He currently works as mission manager for human spaceflight at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, key in the work of the Artemis Program, which will take the first woman and the next man to the Moon.



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