An engineer who's booked to fly on Bezos' Blue Origin will become the first Mexican-born woman to fly to space. She says she had to keep her career dreams secret because of discrimination in the space industry.
- Katya Echazarreta will be the first Mexican-born woman to fly to space, via Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin.
- She told Insider she's kept her career dreams secret because people said she couldn't accomplish them.
Katya Echazarreta will be the first Mexican-born woman to fly to the edge of space when she takes her seat on a Blue Origin rocket.
Jeff Bezos' aerospace company, Blue Origin, will soon launch its fifth human flight, taking six passengers for an 11-minute ride to the Kármán line — an imaginary boundary 100 kilometers above sea level, where many experts say space begins.
Echazarreta will be one of the six passengers to fly in Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket, after attending three days of training. In an exclusive interview with Insider, she said she's not nervous but rather excited about the trip to space.
Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Echazarreta is an engineer who has worked on five NASA missions, including Perseverance Rover. She's also the co-host of the YouTube series "Netflix IRL" and "Electric Kat" on the CBS show "Mission Unstoppable."
She said that she's faced barriers while working her way up as an engineer in the space industry because of her gender and the country she was born in.
"I think the biggest [barrier] has been just a lack of belief in big goals and big dreams," Echazarreta said.
"I've had to essentially keep a lot of these things secret because as soon as I mentioned anything like: I want to be an engineer, I want to work at NASA, I want to go to space, I want to be in the space industry, all I heard around me was, 'No, you can't do that,'" she said.
Throughout her career and education at college, people told Echazarreta they didn't want to work with her because of what she looked like, she said. Echazarreta said what she has experienced happens to a lot of women in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) field.
"Individuals will be very direct, and tell you things like, 'You don't belong here,' 'You shouldn't be here,' 'You were only hired because you were a woman or some diversity quota,' 'That's the only reason why you're here,' when you're trying to climb the ladder to become a more experienced engineer," Echazarreta said.
It's Echazarreta's belief that the majority of women who leave their careers in STEM do so primarily because of the toxicity and unwelcoming environment — and she wants to change this.
Launching to space is part of Echazarreta's mission to provide representation for women and minorities in the STEM sector. She got a seat on Blue Origin's rocket through the nonprofit Space for Humanity, which she initially applied for in 2019.
After many interviews, Echazarreta was selected out of thousands of people because she was considered a "purpose-driven leader" who was working to empower from all demographics in STEM, Rachel Lyons, executive director of Space for Humanity, told Insider.
—Space for Humanity (@SpaceHumanity) May 9, 2022
When Blue Origin's passengers reach the edge of space, they'll unbuckle from their seats and experience three minutes of weightlessness and stunning views of Earth for about three minutes.
Echazarreta said she wants to spend most of her time looking out of the window, given that she has already floated around in zero gravity simulators on Earth.
She said that she's dreamed of going to space her whole life, but never expected to go this soon.
"I'm ready to just take advantage of the whole experience," Echazarreta said.
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