LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WISH) — Katya Echazarreta is only 26 years old and has already done what most of us can only ever dream of: fly to space.
On June 4, she flew on board Blue Origin’s NS-21 with five other crew members. More than 7,000 people from over 100 countries applied, but to her surprise, she made it. Katya’s seat was sponsored by the nonprofit Space for Humanity.
In an interview with News 8, Echazarreta said, “For those first few seconds, I was just in shock and then instant tears, of course.”
“One of the most about the whole experience is looking at the planet that is just something that can never be taken away from you. It causes an entire perspective change and this is a psychological change,” Echazarreta said.
Echazarreta worked as an electrical engineer on five NASA missions and studied at University of California, Los Angeles.
She was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and moved with her family to the United States at seven years old. Going to space was always her dream.
“You realize at least for me I worked so hard to get out of it to be able to see it and in this moment all I want is to share this with my fellow humans and with the people I love the most, ” Echazarreta said.
But her journey before getting there wasn’t always easy.
After her parents separated, her mom and siblings were left with no money.
To make ends meet, she took a job at McDonald’s and attended community college.
“I made sure that yes I was working hard. I was helping to provide for my family along with my mom, but I was also working hard on the side in order to make sure that we were eventually going to be able to rise above it and we were,” Echazarreta said.
She found there weren’t many Latinos or women in her field. She says she’s also fought against racism.
“These are things that are currently still happening, but to any Latino or Latina who is interested in getting into these fields I want you to know that we are here. We have made it through that and we are working very hard to change things for you and for everyone else that wants to join,” Echazarreta said.
On Monday, Echazarreta also spoke with students at Purdue University to talk about women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and more. It was part of the university’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration.