Nov 17, 2022 - World

The Latinos who helped get Artemis off the ground

Ivette Aponte, Luis Zea, and Diana Trujillo, pose for pictures

From left: Ivette Aponte, Luis Zea, and Diana Trujillo, of NASA. Photos courtesy of NASA.

Latinos and Latinas were behind critical work that allowed NASA to launch the uncrewed Artemis I mission to the Moon this week.

The big picture: Only 5.7% of NASA's workforce identifies as Latino or Hispanic, but many have had a major influence on the agency in the past few years.

What they're saying: Latinos who work for NASA hope this week's launch and the future takeoff of the manned Artemis II inspire others to take on STEM careers, where Hispanics are underrepresented.

  • "The launch is the beginning of something big," Puerto Rican integration engineer Ivette Rivera Aponte tells Axios Latino.
  • "They can see how big the Latino presence already is, and from practically all countries of origin. We got here thanks to Hispanics that paved the road and now we're here, presente, and want to open more doors," she said.

Details: Colombian Diana Trujillo and Puerto Rican Jose Marcos Flores were on deck yesterday as NASA flight directors, while Rosa Ávalos-Warren, who is from Peru, helped coordinate the launch as spaceflight mission manager.

  • Engineer Carolina Restrepo, raised in Colombia and Bolivia, is among the team that will now map the Moon more thoroughly than ever to make it safer to land and explore.
  • Others who also played a hand in getting Artemis to launch day include: Guatemalan aerospace engineer Luis Zea; Salvadoran Zaida Hernández, who was also an engineer for the Orion capsule; and Puerto Rican Rey N. Díaz, deputy chief of the Integration Office at the Kennedy Space Center.

Flashback: Latinos have played a role in other major space moments, including the launch of the Mars Perseverance mission last year.

  • Earlier this fall, astronaut Frank Rubio became the first person of Salvadoran origins to go to space, following in the footsteps of trailblazers like Franklin Chang Diaz, the first Latino in space, and Ellen Ochoa, the first Latina in space and former director of the Johnson Space Center.

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