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To Mars and Beyond!

When she was a kid, Diana Trujillo loved to lie in the grass and stare at the stars. Looking up at the night sky sparked her curiosity about the universe. Her dream was to work at NASA, the U.S. space agency.

When Trujillo was 17, she moved to the U.S. from Colombia, a country in South America. At the time, she didn’t speak English and had only $300 in her pocket. She paid her way through college by working as a housekeeper.

Today, Trujillo is living her dream—as an engineer at NASA. She recently talked to Scholastic News about her work on the Perseverance rover, which touched down on Mars last year. 

Rachel Murray/Getty Images for MAKERS

Diana Trujillo

Scholastic News: Why do you love space? 

Diana Trujillo: There’s so much to learn and discover. For me, space is all about exploration. And I get to be part of a team that rolls their sleeves up and says, “OK, let’s figure this out.”

SN: What’s your role on the Perseverance team? 

DT: I helped put together the vehicle, particularly the robotic arm. It drills into the surface of Mars and takes samples that we can analyze to help us better understand the planet. 


Perseverance took this selfie last April. 

SN: Why is the Perseverance mission important? 

DT: Perseverance is the fifth rover to explore Mars. During the last mission, we discovered that Mars once had water on it and had the right mix of chemicals in its atmosphere to support life. But was there ever life on Mars? With Perseverance, I hope we get to actually answer that question. I think that we are very close.

Another thing we’ve done is fly the first helicopter [called Ingenuity] on another planet. It’s just a really cool way of exploring.

SN: What’s the next step in space exploration? 

DT: I expect we’ll continue to explore other planets with robotics and also start bringing humans to these planets so we can see for ourselves. There’s only so much you can do with a rover. It’s not the same as being there.

SN: What do you think about people who aren’t trained astronauts visiting space? 

DT: Space is for everybody—not for specific people who have specific degrees. My hope is that eventually anybody can say, “I’m going to take the 5 o’clock shuttle to the moon.” It will be amazing if we get to that point. There’s no reason why we couldn’t.