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Monday, December 4, 2023

Young Mexicans at NASA: the space dream is not light years away

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Quitzé Fernández
Quitzé Fernándezhttps://www.amonite.com.mx
Amonite es un sitio dedicado a la divulgación científica para niños y jóvenes. Somos un grupo de amigos que escucha, cuenta historias y las plasma en algo parecido a un papel. Por medio de la ilustración y los medios audiovisuales buscamos acercar las novedades de ciencia y tecnología con un lenguaje accesible para todos. Amonite es un proyecto binacional editado y diseñado entre México y Argentina. Nace en 2017 a iniciativa de Quitzé Fernández, quien obtuvo en 2013 el Premio Nacional de Periodismo y Divulgación Científica, convocado por el Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología de México (Conacyt), con la crónica La mujer que encontró dinosaurios en el patio de su casa. A él se unieron los ilustradores Daniel Galindo y Jess Silva, que han generado trabajo visual para diarios e instituciones del norte de México; y más adelante los periodistas José Juan Zapata y Jessica Jaramillo, en la edición y generación de contenido, desde Buenos Aires, Argentina. Todos ellos forman parte del staff permanente de Amonite, junto a un grupo de colaboradores que aportan sus visiones periodísticas, visuales y literarias del mundo de la ciencia.

Illustration: Carolina Robles

Although only two Mexicans have managed to go into space as astronauts, more and more young people and students manage to carry out their projects and train within the most famous space agency in the world.

Who has never dreamed of being an astronaut? Since childhood, we have a fascination with outer space, and we think that one day we could be ourselves who were taking off on board a shuttle, floating in space without gravity or even stepping on satellites and other planets.

The reality is that very few people are lucky enough to be selected as astronauts after rigorous testing and selection. Only two Mexicans have achieved that dream. The first was Rodolfo Neri Vela from Guerrero. Their participation was possible thanks to a collaboration program between NASA and the Ministry of Communications and Transportation of Mexico.

Neri Vela was part of the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis on November 26, 1985 . His role was that of cargo specialist in a seven-day mission, with the aim of putting three satellites into orbit: Morelos II (Mexico), AUSSAT-2 (Australia) and SATCOM (United States).

But Neri Vela is not the only one. A few days ago, the young Katya Echazarreta , 26, was part of the Blue Origin crew, a company owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos. Katya flew as part of the Citizen Astronaut Program sponsored by Space for Humanity (S4H).

Although it may seem distant, more and more young Mexicans manage to carry out their projects and train within NASA , with which they can access new professional opportunities. And who says? Perhaps in the future there will be more and more Mexican engineers and crew members of missions in outer space.

NASA opens its doors
One of the biggest doors of access to students is the International Air and Space Program (IASP) , where year after year young people can train for a week at NASA facilities to improve their skills in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

This year, NASA released a list of 60 young people selected to be part of the program, which includes several Mexican students from different campuses and states, among which Karla Sofía Padilla, from Coahuila, stands out from industrial engineering at the Technological from Saltillo.

Mexican students at IASAP 2014 / Photo: Facebook AEXA Aerosapce

Karla was chosen after presenting her project “Zero Monarch Butterfly”, whose main objective was to improve the medical area of the ship to provide greater safety to the crew , since the butterfly is that ship that scans for faults and constantly transforms .

Another of the Mexican students who was selected was Mónica Ortiz Álvarez, an Oaxacan who studied at the Benito Juárez Autonomous University of Oaxaca (UABJO) , who has already had stays at Harvard University, UNAM and the University of Antioquia in Colombia.

A dream that requires support
For the young people who are selected to go to this NASA training program, it is not only about an academic or skills challenge. You also have to fight with the economic part , since they themselves must cover different costs that can reach 4 thousand dollars, an amount that is not easy to afford.

In the case of Karla Sofía Padilla , the mayor of Saltillo, José María Fraustro, offered her the necessary support so that she could cover the costs of her participation in the program. But in other cases, it is the students themselves who must seek donations or private sponsorships to participate.

Ivana Naomi Millán Flores is a student at Tec de Monterrey studying the eighth semester of the Biotechnology Engineering degree at the State of Mexico campus, and is another of those selected for the International Air and Space Program. so it has launched a donation campaign through its social networks to cover expenses.

“I want to learn much more about the branch of aerospace engineering and meet people from all over the world who are passionate about the same as me,” he told the Conecta portal in an interview. “In addition, it is also an international competition where you work as a team on a project to take it to the International Space Station hand in hand with NASA specialists.”

So space continues to attract young dreamers looking for a path in the fields of science and technology. It is worth remembering that the best we can do is encourage and support their vocations and their academic careers. With the hope that in the future there will be more Mexicans who contribute knowledge to everyone.


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