Katya Echazarreta made history in June when she became the first Mexican-born woman to travel to space.
The 27-year-old electrical engineer was aboard the Blue Origin on June 4 as a Space for Humanity Ambassador. For her, this moment was an emotional culmination of her lifelong desire to fly into space.
Echazarreta spoke to GMA3 for Latina Leaders Week on Monday about her journey and message to others who aim to reach for the stars.
ECHAZARRETA: I was 7 years old when I first said to my mother, “What do you think is the hardest thing anyone can do?” And she said, “For you, I think maybe being an astronaut.” And that was the day I decided I wanted to go to space.
My parents were obsessed with Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. I was never told, “Oh no, you wouldn’t understand. This is for adults.” If I had any questions about this, I was greeted and shown other things.
I was 18 when I essentially had to become a parent to my siblings. My parents were going through a divorce. We had all decided to stay with my mother. We had nothing. We didn’t have a house anymore. We didn’t have a car anymore. I had my job at McDonald’s and she started being nannies, cleaning houses, walking dogs, so we were able to make it.
It was 2019 when I applied for this mission through Space for Humanity and I was already a NASA engineer. At this point, I came expecting to do a second interview. They said, “You’re going to fly into space.” One of the best moments of this whole experience was telling my mother about it. She never made me believe that there was anything on earth I couldn’t do, or even anything in space I couldn’t do.
It was a very interesting experience. You are the greatest thing you’ve ever been in your life. And then suddenly everything is black and you are in space now. And I looked out the window, I just couldn’t believe it. And I only felt a single tear on my cheek when I was first told I was going to space. I also understood that a Mexican-born woman had never gone into space before. Being told that person would be me is a huge responsibility for women of color who dream big. It’s more difficult for us, I know, but it’s also possible for us. I also know that I saw it. I did it. I lived it Si se puede. [Yes, we can!]