DREAMS ARE THE ROAD TO SPACE
FOR NASA AEROSPACE ENGINEER
Rosa Obregon didn't realize
it at the time, but the road from Monterrey, Mexico, to Corpus
Christi, Texas, was the first leg of a long journey leading
to NASA's Stennis Space Center (SSC), Miss.
Always interested in space, the 22-year-old aerospace technologist
has gained hands-on experience in SSC's E-Complex, where she
was involved in a hybrid rocket motor test program. She was
also one of five test conductors for the External Tank Foam
Test (ETFT) Project. The ETFT team simulated Florida weather
conditions typical of Space Shuttle launch days to see what
kinds of ice and frost formed on the tank's foam insulation.
Obregon is working on another NASA team testing hybrid motors.
She hopes to be a test conductor for part of the series. "I'm
trying to explore different aspects of NASA," she said. "I'm
enjoying what I'm doing, but one day I want to be a test conductor,
to push the button and see that beautiful flame," Obregon
Obregon's parents moved from Monterrey to pursue a better
life for their family. She grew up in a mostly Spanish-speaking
household in Corpus Christi.
Through her parents' example, Obregon learned a lot can be
accomplished through hard work and a supportive family. Her
father knew she had an interest in space from an early age
and encouraged her every step of the way.
"My dad did a lot of little things to encourage me," she said.
"He set up a telescope on the back porch when the planets
were visible, and if I had any questions he couldn't answer,
he would find the answers for me."
After graduating first in her high school class in 2000, Obregon
enrolled in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
in Cambridge, Mass. When she left for MIT, she had an agreement
with her mother to always take time to call home and keep
their strong family bond, a bond that had nurtured her throughout
Attending MIT allowed Obregon to see and experience new places
and new people, experiences she had not previously considered.
Until college, she had only been to Mexico and Texas. While
at MIT she got to see the East Coast, Boston and New York.
When she was close to completing her degree, she attended
a conference for the Society of Mexican American Engineers
and Scientists (MAES) in Phoenix, Ariz., which changed her
She joined MAES at MIT, which proved to be a source of comfort,
a way to feel less homesick, "a second familia away from home,"
she said. It also proved to be her connection to SSC.
Acting as a liaison to the MAES conference for the MIT chapter,
Obregon was giving out CDs containing the resumes of students
who couldn't attend. She gave her own resume to SSC's representative
at the conference and it worked. She got her bachelor's in
aerospace engineering from MIT in June 2004, and she began
working at SSC. She's on the next leg of her career journey
as an aspiring rocket engine test conductor.
Obregon offers words of encouragement to other young people
coming from similar backgrounds. "Just because you think you
can't afford a particular school, don't give up pursuing it,
she said." You don't know if you can get financial aid unless
you try. Don't assume anything until you truly learn you can't
Latina Magazine (December 2005/January
2006 issue) named Obregon one of the 10 Women of the Year
for her contribution to NASA's space shuttle mission in July,
the first shuttle flight since the 2003 Columbia accident.
Read full story at NASA News Release: MBO-05-178
Read more about Rosa Obregon