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 added.
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 her life.
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 life.
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 get it.”
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
On-Line Articles &/or Profile link(s)
- RELEASE: MBO-05-079
- RELEASE: MBO-05-178
- Testing rockets with ROSA OBREGON – Latino
- Women@NASA » Women Simultaneously Lead Separate Engine Tests
- Testing rockets with Rosa Obregon – Video on NBCNews.com
NASA Stennis Space Center (SSC) located in located in South Mississippi (approximately 48 miles west of Biloxi and 45 miles east of New Orleans) and is responsible for NASA’s rocket propulsion testing and for partnering with industry to develop and implement remote sensing technology.