When NASA’s Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars last week, aerospace engineer Diana Trujillo, who is a flight director on the mission, said in an interview with CBS News that it took her some time to process that it had arrived on the red planet.
“I was very much on the mindset of ‘What’s happening?'” she said. Then as pictures and videos from Perseverance started to beam back, it became real.
“Are we safe? I think that watching the image was when I actually processed that we had actually landed,” she added.
The landing only marked the beginning of Perseverance’s stop on Mars, but playing a leadership role in the historic mission to find life there was decades in the making for Trujillo. Her dreams of reaching space and wanting to understand the universe came as a young person in Cali, Colombia.
Her parents were divorcing and as 17-year-old, she decided to go to the United States, arriving with only $300 and not speaking any English. She worked housekeeping jobs to pay for her studies and later joined NASA in 2007.
Trujillo is now part of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and worked on the team that created the robotic arm that will collect rock samples in Mars. “Understanding if we’re alone in the universe is the ultimate question,” she said.
“I hope that within the one year of surface operations on Mars, we can answer that question soon.”
More on CBS NEWS