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WASHINGTON, DC – The Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) today announced that NASA’s Clara O’Farrell, Christina Hernandez, and Diana Trujillo will receive the 2021 HISPANIC HERITAGE STEM AWARD during the 34th Hispanic Heritage Awards’ broadcast on PBS, October 8, joining Ivy Queen, Ron Rivera, Carlos Santana, and Kali Uchis.
“The Hispanic Heritage Foundation is thrilled to recognize NASA’s Clara O’Farrell, Christina Hernandez, and Diana Trujillo with the STEM Award and highlight their remarkable journeys not just on earth but beyond,” said Jose Antonio Tijerino, President and CEO of HHF. “As leaders in the STEM space, these inspirational Latinas demonstrate the great vision and value proposition our community presents America. These engineers also represent role models for aspiring Latinx engineers in expanding human knowledge and scientific discovery.”
Each of these engineers have each played a significant role in the development, planning, construction, execution, and on-going viability to the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover Mission. As a guidance & control engineer, Clara O’Farrell’s work on the super-sonic parachute is invaluable to the success of the mission and the rover’s safe arrival to the surface of Mars. Christina Hernandez’s contributions as a payloads system engineer, overseeing the construction and integration of the on-board systems and modules, was vital to the rover’s missions on Mars. And Diana Trujillo’s various leadership roles through-out various states of the mission before and after launch and arrival are integral to ensuring the viability of the mission and the success of future Mars missions, including hosting the first Spanish-language simulcast of the Rover landing expanding NASA’s media profile into Spanish-speaking households.
Originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Clara O’Farrell moved to the US on her 19th birthday to start college. After studying Aerospace Engineering at Princeton, she completed a Ph.D. at Caltech where her research was focused on the fluid dynamics of jellyfish swimming. In 2013, she joined JPL, where she works on problems related to parachutes, aerodynamics, and trajectory simulation for Entry, Descent, and Landing. She also works on the Mars Perseverance as a part of the Investigation Team on ASPIRE: the test program to certify a supersonic parachute to land the Perseverance rover via supersonic sounding rocket tests.
After getting an offer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Christina Hernandez started working right away as a micrometeoroid and orbital debris specialist in the Natural Space Environments group. In parallel, Christina also worked as the mission assurance manager on STABLE (Sub arcsecond Telescope and Balloon Experiment), which was an early career personnel-led flight project to advance technology of sub-arcsecond pointing stability for a high-altitude balloon observatory mission. Christina was introduced to the Mars world with one of her first projects, Comet Siding Spring, where Christina and her mentor performed impact assessments in order to keep Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Odyssey, and MAVEN safe during the comet event. In the end, risk was averted, and opportunistic science was completed. After that, she joined the Mars team, and worked on the Mars Perseverance rover’s payload development and delivery team since preliminary design review working on three out of the seven science instruments.
Diana Trujillo is an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where she currently serves as Technical Group Supervisor for Sequence Planning and Execution and a Tactical Mission Lead. Born and raised in Colombia, Diana immigrated to the United States at the age of 17 to pursue her dream of working for NASA. She enrolled in English as a Second Language courses, holding down full-time jobs to support her studies in community college and later the University of Florida and University of Maryland. Diana worked in several roles on the Mars Curiosity and Constellation programs since joining JPL in 2008. Most recently, she served as the Mission Lead, Deputy Project System Engineer, Deputy Team Chief of the Engineering Operations for Curiosity (also known as the Mars Science Laboratory). In addition to her technical roles at JPL, Diana also created and hosted #JuntosPerseveramos, NASA’s first ever Spanish-language live broadcast of a major mission milestone, attracting a global audience of millions.
This year’s Hispanic Heritage Awards, modeled after last year’s PBS broadcast, will once again feature more intimately filmed performances and Honoree segments captured on location across the United States and Latin America. Last year’s program had the highest ratings and reached more people in the PBS Broadcasts’ history with Awardees including Bad Bunny, Selena Gomez, Linda Ronstadt, Jessica Alba, John Lewis, and our Farmworkers, with performances by Sebastian Yatra, Jessie Reyez, Sech, Calma Carmona, Flor de Toloache and a grand finale tribute to Linda Ronstadt anchored by The Mavericks featuring Latina vocalists: Joy Huerta of Jesse and Joy, Lupita Infante, La Marisoul of La Santa Cecilia, Gaby Moreno and Carla Morrison.
The Hispanic Heritage Awards, produced by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, were created by the White House in 1988 to commemorate the establishment of Hispanic Heritage Month in America and is among the highest honors by Latinos for Latinos and supported by 40 national Hispanic-serving institutions. For a video, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C92ZiK5MxAs.
About the Hispanic Heritage Foundation
The Hispanic Heritage Awards serve as a launch of HHF’s year-round programs focused on education, workforce, social impact through the lens of leadership. HHF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. For more information, visit www.hispanicheritage.org and follow the Hispanic Heritage Foundation on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
For more information on the Awards, contact John Reilly at (firstname.lastname@example.org)
To sponsor the Awards, contact Jessica Herrera (Jessica@HispanicHeritage.org).