Rachel Murray/Getty Images for MAKERS (Diana Trujillo); NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS (Perseverence); (all other images) 

To Mars and Beyond!

When she was a kid, Diana Trujillo loved staring up at the stars. She wanted to understand what was going on in the universe. Her dream was to work at NASA, the U.S. space agency.

So Trujillo moved from Colombia to the U.S. when she was 17. 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 a NASA engineer. She spoke to Scholastic News about her work on the Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars last year.

Rachel Murray/Getty Images for MAKERS

Diana Trujillo

Scholastic News: Why did you choose a career that involves 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 digs into the surface of Mars and takes samples that we can analyze to help us better understand the planet.

SN: What do you hope to discover about Mars?

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 we’re close.


Perseverance took this selfie last April. 

SN: What the next step in space exploration?

DT: I expect we’ll continue to explore other planets with robotics and also bring 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 astronauts visiting space?

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