By age 17, she was supporting her family on a salary at McDonald’s. Now gone to space

When he arrived in the United States, he did not know a word of English. He even had four jobs to support his family and study. This Saturday, he traveled to the edge of space.

A spacecraft built by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin took its fifth group of passengers to the far reaches of space, including the first Mexican-born woman to make such a trip.

The 18-meter-tall suborbital rocket lifted off from the Blue Origin facility in West Texas at 9:26 a.m. ET, carrying a group of six almost 100 kilometers above the Earth’s surface – what is widely believed to be the frontier of outer space – and giving a few minutes of weightlessness before landing by parachute.

Most passengers paid an undisclosed sum for their seats. But Katya Echazarreta, an engineer and science communicator from Guadalajara, Mexico, was selected by a nonprofit organization called Space for Humanity. [tradução livre: Espaço para a Humanidade] join this mission from a pool of thousands of candidates. The organization’s goal is to send “outstanding leaders” into space and allow them to experience the perspective effect. [“Overview Effect”]a phenomenon often reported by astronauts who say that seeing Earth from space creates a profound shift in perspective for them.

Echazarreta told CNN he experienced this perspective effect “in my own way.”

Katia Echazarreta. Blue Origin Pictures

“Looking down and seeing how everyone is out there, all of our past, all of our mistakes, all of our obstacles, everything – everything is there,” he said. “And the only thing I could think of when I came back down was that I needed people to see that. I need Latinas to see that. And I think that completely reinforced my mission of continue to bring, especially women and people of color, space and do whatever they want to do”.

Echazarreta is the first Mexican-born woman to travel in space and the second Mexican, after Rodolfo Neri Vela, a scientist who joined one of NASA’s space shuttle missions in 1985.

She moved to the United States with her family when she was seven and remembers feeling crushed in a new place where she didn’t speak the language and a teacher warned her that she might have to be retained.

“It just encouraged me a lot and I think since, since third grade, I’ve been moving forward and I haven’t stopped,” Echazarreta recalled in an Instagram conversation.

When she was 17 and 18, Echazarreta said, she was also her family’s primary breadwinner on a salary from McDonald’s.

“I had up to four [empregos] at the same time, just to try to get to college, because that was really important to me,” Echazarreta said.

Today, Echazarreta is working on her master’s degree in engineering at Johns Hopkins University. She previously worked at NASA’s famous Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. She has more than 330,000 users on TikTok, hosts a science-focused YouTube series, and hosts a CBS weekend show “Mission Utoppable.”

Space for Humanity – which was founded in 2017 by Dylan Taylor, a space investor who recently joined a Blue Origin flight – chose him for his impressive contributions. “We were looking for people who are leaders in their communities, who have a sphere of influence; people who are already doing great work in the world, and people who are passionate about anything,” said Rachel Lyons, CEO of the association to CNN.

Echazarreta said she was motivated to become a public figure after working at JPL and not seeing other engineers who looked like her.

“There are so many people in this world who dream of the same things I dreamed of. And yet I don’t see them here. So what’s going on?” interrogates. “It wasn’t enough for me to be able to go out there and be there. I also have to help bring others with me.”

On his Saturday flight from Blue Origin, Echazarreta flew alongside Evan Dick, an investor who had previously flown with Blue Origin in December and became the first regular passenger. Other passengers included Hamish Harding, who lives in the United Arab Emirates and is the chairman of an aircraft brokerage firm; Jason Robinson, the founder of a commercial real estate company; Victor Vescovo, co-founder of a private equity investment firm; and Victor Correa Hespanha, a 28-year-old who got his seat after buying an NFT from a group called The Crypto Space Agency.

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