From cleaning bathrooms to heading Mars rover initiative, Diana makes history

Colombian Diana Trujillo has been in the news for her remarkable story of how she went from being a bathroom cleaning lady to the project director for NASA’s Mars rover project.

Diana was raised in a family that, like many others across Latin America, believed a woman’s place was in the home, taking care of her husband. Diana’s mother dropped out of medical school when she met Diana’s father. When they divorced, Diana and her mother were left with nothing.

“We didn’t even have food. We’d boil an egg and we’d cut it in half, and that was our lunch that day. I remember just laying down on the grass and looking at the sky and thinking, ‘Something has to be out there that’s better than this.” says Diana Trujillo, who traveled to the US with no English and just $300 in her pocket.

“I saw everything coming my way as an opportunity. I didn’t see it as ‘I can’t believe that I’m cleaning a bathroom right now.’ It was just more like, ‘I’m glad that I have a job and I can buy food and have a house to sleep.’ And so, I think that all of those things make me, and even today, helps me see life differently.”

She took any job she could get, working nights, housekeeping, cleaning bathrooms, to put herself through community college.

Diana helped design the rover’s robotic arm, which will collect rock samples to be analyzed, samples that may help determine whether there is life on other planets.

“Understanding, if we’re alone in the universe, is the ultimate question,” she says.

“I hope that within the one year of surface operations on Mars, we can answer that question.”

And a Latina immigrant will have helped make it possible.