Making history as the first Mexican woman in space, Katya Echazarreta is definitely an inspiration for many Latinas in different fields. This 26-year-old Electrical Engineer has shown her passion for science and engineering, making her own successful path in a field that’s mostly dominated by men and opening the way for many more women to come.
Growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico, the skillful engineer recently made her dreams come true of traveling to space, joining the crew boarding the fifth passenger flight in Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. Katya moved to the United States at the young age of 7, and while she struggled at first due to the language barrier, she quickly adapted to the country and credits her mom for giving her a strong work ethic to follow her passion.
“I’ve been given the opportunity to help guide those girls and women who, like me, are looking for someone with experience in what they are going through”
Graduating from UCLA, Katya went on to intern at NASA JPL, and transitioned to a full-time engineer on 5 NASA missions including Perseverance and Europa Clipper. And she is now pursuing a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
“Space, Math, Astronomy, and Physics have interested me for as long as I can remember and I never lost sight of that growing up,” Katya confessed. “Everyone around me — family, friends, teachers — I just kept hearing the same thing: That’s not for you,” she said, in reference to her dream of traveling to space, showing everyone that it’s always possible to accomplish your wildest dreams.
Katya was sponsored by the nonprofit Space for Humanity in an effort to increase diversity in space travel, as fewer than 80 women have been to space, and fewer than three dozen have been Black, Indigenous or Latino, from a total of 600 people that have ventured into space.
“Throughout my journey in engineering school I was very aware about the lack of women in the field. This was very difficult for me because I did not have many people I could ask for advice regarding several topics such as the implicit biases we face on a daily basis,” Katya admitted.
She also explained that she had had the opportunity “to help guide those girls and women who, like me, are looking for someone with experience in what they are going through. Through honesty about the difficulties and encouragement I hope to be able to help women be better prepared for their experience as a woman in STEM.”