People in their mid-20s are usually still on the road to fulfilling their lifelong dreams. For Mexican-born Katya Echazarreta, however, such dreams have already been realized at the tender age of 26. As of the writing of this article, Katya is the first Mexican woman to reach outer space.
This opportunity was made possible through Jeff Bezos and the Blue Origin rocket. In early June, the rocket hosted its fifth set of space passengers. Through the nonprofit organization known as Space for Humanity, Katya was able to apply for one of the six available seats.
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To date, there are fewer than 80 women who have traveled to space. On top of that, only a fraction of the total travelers has been Latino. Considering this and how Katya got selected from a vast pool of 7,000 applicants across 100 different countries, Katya’s selection and experiences are quite noteworthy.
Space for Humanity aims to send out cream-of-the-crop leaders and give them the chance to get firsthand experience of the “overview effect.” This particular effect has been named by space travelers when referring to the phenomenon of looking down toward Earth from space.
Through this experience, they get to see that our similarities as humans outweigh our differences, as mentioned by Space for Humanity on their website.
Katya’s noteworthy space adventures
Alongside five other passengers, Katya had to undergo training for this space travel. Once they completed the training, the team took off from the launch facility of Blue Origin in Western Texas. The spacecraft brought them to a distance of 62 miles above the earth. This gave them the chance to experience a couple of minutes of weightlessness before returning to earth.
For Katya, the experience was absolutely incredible. She also mentioned that the outbound trip was most fascinating because people are just used to traveling in a horizontal direction. However, on her trip bound for space, the direction was vertical and she noted what a strange feeling that was.
After a few moments, she experienced how her capsule underwent disconnection from the rocket. “You’re experiencing microgravity for the first time, and you look out the window, and you see a planet. A very real, large, beautiful planet with the most beautiful glow of the atmosphere. You’re able to see everything in three dimensions — and on top of that, you’re floating!” she said. (CBS)
Katya also shared that her unique journey has impacted how she views life. She mentioned that upon returning to earth, she became a human that is more understanding and patient. “Everything that we’ve ever experienced, all of your problems, and all of your obstacles, and everything that feels like the end of the world to us sometimes, it’s all there. It feels so big to us, and yet it’s not, because I just left in a matter of minutes.” (CBS)
The diverse team she flew with included Evan Dick who is the first space traveler to fly two times. Also on the crew was Jaison Robinson, one of the finalists of the reality show Survivor: Samoa in the 2009 batch, and Hamish Harding, the chairman of a company that specializes in jet brokerage. Victor Correa Hespanha, the second Brazillian to travel to space, became part of the crew after purchasing an NFT. He got the news through Twitter. The final member, Victor Vescovo, is one of the co-founders of a private investment company.
Katya did her undergraduate work at UCLA. Currently, she is working toward a master’s degree in engineering at John Hopkins University.