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First Mexican woman in space talks about helping future astronauts reach for the stars

ABC News

(NEW YORK) — Electrical engineer Katya Echazarreta made history nearly two years ago when she became the first Mexican woman in space.

Echazarreta was aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin flight as part of The Space For Humanity initiative.

Before that feat, she was already a star through her viral social media posts about her field.

Echazarreta spoke with ABC News’ Phil Lipof about her career.

ABC NEWS LIVE: I guess just first off, because so many people would like to know what it’s like [in space]. What was it like?

KATYA ECHAZARRETA: Thank you so much. First of all, thank you so much for having me and truly this experience, I really wish I could put it into words. I wish I could explain it in such a way that people would be able to understand the full magnitude and extent of it. But really, just to sum it up: It is the most incredible and beautiful experience a human being can have.

ABC NEWS LIVE: I can only imagine there are so many people who would love to have that experience, and you really can never truly understand it until you’re there in some situation. So I get what you’re saying.

From your early days in Guadalajara, Mexico, to your work with NASA and pursuit of a master’s degree in electrical engineering, when did your passion for reaching the stars first take flight? When did you set your sight on doing that?

ECHAZARRETA: Well, I really love that question because for me, I made my official final decision at just 7 years old. That is the age when I just decided and I started telling my parents, started telling everyone, and from that moment on, my mind did not change.

ABC NEWS LIVE: And that’s amazing. And, and there you were. You also lead the Katya Echazarreta Space Foundation known for its educational initiatives like the Air and Space Camp. Talk to us a little bit about your mission, your second year of camps in Mexico.

ECHAZARRETA: Yes. So all of this started after I came back from my experience in space. This for me, this experience is something that I thought was going to take me the rest of my life.

And so when you’re 26 years old and the mission you have for the rest of your life, you’ve already achieved it, what’s next?

And I actually had an amazing conversation with the vice president. And she said to me, you know, I really relate to what you are going through, what you will go through. Because for people like us or the first to do something, the job is not to be the first. The pride and the honor is not in being the first, but in making sure you’re not the last. So that’s why we decided to create these camps and these training educational programs for people of my own community.

ABC NEWS LIVE: Well, you’re not just an electrical engineer and a citizen astronaut. You’ve graced the covers of Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Vogue in Mexico. Plus, you were Glamour’s “Woman of the Year,” and you even have your own Barbie. That’s amazing. How do you use this diverse career that you’ve had so far in your life to sort of challenge stereotypes?

ECHAZARRETA: I think that the last portion of what you just mentioned is so important and it’s so vital to our entire mission.

Part of breaking down those stereotypes has also been breaking them down within myself first.

ABC NEWS LIVE: Back home, you were told this dream of yours would never come true. And I know for so many people, that can be one of the best motivators. As we conclude Women’s History Month, what message do you have for young girls out there beyond those aspiring to join STEM fields?

ECHAZARRETA: I think the biggest message is just no one is going to hand you opportunities out of the blue. If you want something, and that thing that you want is very large and sometimes larger than life itself, then you are going to be the one that has to go out there and believe in yourself first.

I really just want to encourage all women to think that way, that maybe that one dream that you have for you is just the biggest thing you can come up with. Maybe that’s not the biggest thing you will achieve if you truly commit and really believe in what you can do.

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