Mexican engineer pushes for more diversity in space

Katya Echazarreta grew up in Guadalajara (Mexico) and was encouraged to give up her dream of going to space.

Mexican engineer pushes for more diversity in space

Katya Echazarreta grew up in Guadalajara (Mexico) and was encouraged to give up her dream of going to space.

Echazarreta stated that everyone around her -- teachers, family, friends -- kept repeating the same message to The Associated Press.

Echazarreta (26 years old) will prove them wrong Saturday as she boards the fifth passenger flight of Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos's space travel venture.

She will be joined by five other Brazilians, including Victor Correa Hespanha (the second Brazilian to fly into space), and they will launch from Texas on a New Shepard rocket. The flight will take just 10 minutes. The flight will reach an altitude around 66 miles (106 km) before it parachutes into the desert.

Echazarreta's flight, sponsored by Space for Humanity, is the first Mexican-born woman to fly into space. From more than 7,000 applicants from over 100 countries, she was selected.

Blue Origin's flight is part of a competition with Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic and Elon Musk's SpaceX for space tourism dollars. This space tourism dollar will be used to support diversity and increase diversity in space travel which has long been dominated white men.

Out of the 600+ people who have traveled to space since Yuri Gagarin’s 1961 pioneering flight, less than 80 are women, and fewer that three dozen are Black, Indigenous, or Latino.

NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins, the first Black woman to be assigned a long-duration space mission, arrived at the International Space Station in April.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson had earlier this year announced that the agency's first ever equity plan was in place "to further identify, and remove, the barriers that limit the opportunity for underserved communities and underrepresented communities."

Tabbetha Dobbins is vice president for research at Rowan University and the dean of the graduate program. She is part of an American Institute of Physics task group that aims to increase the number of Black undergraduate students studying astronomy and physics. According to her, access to space is important regardless of how short the trip.

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