The incredible story of Diana Trujillo, the Cali woman who is about to conquer Mars

The reality of Diana Trujillo is a dream. A dream so big that it broke the utopian barriers of the impossible and made its way through paths of struggle, perseverance, tenacity, study and, of those things that have no explanation, the spark of different will that those who have only one chance possess.

His talent was discovered by a chemistry teacher at the Cañaverales school in Cali. The teacher, amazed at Diana’s brilliance, recommended that she I had to emigrate from Colombia. At that time, in 1997, there was no university in the country capable of housing and exploiting all the talent of the young genius.

He came to the United States when he was just 17 years old. His goal was not to conquer the world; His dreams were much more ambitious: to explore the universe. In order to transform the impossible into the possible, he worked cleaning houses to be able to pay for his university studies in Aerospace Engineering; he worked his way up through the academy until his name made it to NASA.

This is how the trip began

Since 2008 he has worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of that space agency, in which he has contributed to several missions.

Some time later, she was the leader of the Surface Sampling System on the Curiosity mission, a role in which She was responsible for ensuring the activity of the arm, the sampling and other daily tasks of that rover that landed on the space surface in August 2012.

Later, his star opportunity came: to lead the Perseverance mission, which took a robot to Mars. Everything went according to plan and the device hit the ground on February 18, after a journey of 480 million kilometers that began in July 2020.

And it is that perseverance is one of the words that has the stamp of Diana Trujillo. When she arrived in the United States she did not speak English, but that was not an impediment to continue walking into space.

The curiosity to know what was beyond was born in Colombia. The disheartening news of a war that was at its historical peaks of terror tormented her and the only thing that managed to calm her down was to go up to the roof of her house and spend hours looking at the stars. She fantasized about a path beyond everything.

Fantasies are now challenges. Last week she was officially presented by NASA as one of the women who are part of the group of seven new directors of spaceflight missions, who have the purpose of studying and solving the challenges so that the human being returns to step on the planet. Moon.

His job, explained in simple words, is to coordinate the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, a position in which he will have to direct manned spaceflight missions from the Mission Control Center, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, in Houston. , Texas.

Perseverance is one of the words that has the seal of Diana Trujillo, who makes history at NASA.
Perseverance is one of the words that has the seal of Diana Trujillo, who makes history at NASA. – Photo: istock

The engineer explained that this project: “seeks to carry out scientific experiments and expand our knowledge of how we can maintain life in space; also to study how to get vehicles to the Space Station. Already when it is shown that it is possible to preserve life, our next stage is for the human being to return to the Moon (…). Only then will it be possible to think about taking humans to Mars. In other words, it is as if we were going for a walk and to recharge energy, we made a quick stop on the Moon”.

Other paths open

Diana was born on January 4, 1980. She is 42 years old. She is married to William Pomerantz, vice president of special projects for Virgin Orbit. They have two children, still minors. She is considered one of the most influential Latin American women in the aerospace technology industry, for their contributions to the development and innovation of robotic arm systems for unmanned space exploration vehicles.

He studied Space Sciences at Miami Dade College Community School in Florida, and later Aerospace Engineering in the Systems Engineering program at the University of Maryland, College Park. He did professional internships at the NASA Space Academy and then joined the Department of Education of that same agency.

This is a very brief profile of who has taken the Colombian flag to the highest possible place. However, behind these general data there are fascinating details, such as, for example, that Thanks to the work and inspiration of Diana Trujillo, NASA set its sights on Colombia and opened the program She Is, which seeks to train a hundred Colombian girls between 9 and 15 years of age to show them the route to space. Diana is not only a reference; she is also the way.

Diana Trujillo is part of the second mission to Mars.
Diana Trujillo is part of the second mission to Mars. – Photo: istock

“If you felt inspired, please know that you can turn that inspiration into action. You, your daughters and your sons can also become scientists and engineers. You can start today!” says Diana.

His work has also been recognized in Colombia. In the most recent Cafam Award for Women, on March 8, she was awarded in the midst of the commemoration of International Women’s Day.

“It gives me great emotion to have the privilege of receiving this tribute and continue to inspire all women to work for their dreams, without giving up. I came to the United States with 300 dollars, without knowing English, and today I am on the second mission to Mars, where we want to know if we are alone on the planet,” said the Colombian engineer.

He also received the Cruz de Boyacá from the National Government, the highest decoration for an outstanding citizen. “Engineering is today an inspiration for so many girls in our country who have joined the network of little ones who want to become scientists, but also for those who are in training at universities in our country and outside our territory. I have no doubt that when they see you, they see the benchmark of wanting to reach those places of leadership and transcendence,” said President Iván Duque Márquez.

Likewise, Diana has earned the recognition of all of Colombia, including public figures such as Shakira. “Diana’s story moves and inspires me,” the singer commented on her Twitter account.

Message that the engineer did not hesitate to answer. “Thank you very much, Shakira, for your message. I hope that parents, teachers, girls and boys have been inspired by the landing of Perseverance. I want you to have in your hearts the hope of being the engineers and scientists of the future”, he expressed.

Inspiration. That is the key word in Diana’s dictionary of life. Now that her childhood dreams of hers are her reality, she has replaced them with her adult goals. And, although it seems impossible, she wonders why not? And that is enough to believe. To believe until the end, just as in 1997 that teacher believed in her. The journey is not over yet.