My Culture, My Voice

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Christina Hernandez made her way to JPL in 2013, but her challenges from childhood through college shaped who she is today–an engineer for the Mars Perseverance rover on the Planetary Instrument for X-Ray Lithochemistry. The instrument will take super close-up pictures of chemical elements on the Martian surface, to help look for signs of past microbial life.

Below, she sits down to share her struggles with attending college and being Latina, and reveals one of the proudest moments of her life so far.

What was it like to work on Mars 2020?It’s hard not to get emotional even thinking about it. This rover really means everything. We couldn’t have named it anything better than Perseverance. I often reflect back on not seeing people who look like me in engineering. All of sudden you’re in the room, you’re in the meeting, you’re at the table, you’re helping make the decisions, you’re leading the test, you’re in the thick of it. That’s when you realize, you’ve made it.

What are your earliest memories of JPL?My mom took me to a JPL open house one year. But when I was little, my earliest memory of …

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