It is so important for Latinx children to learn that virtually all careers are available to them. It’s crucial that they know that if they have the talent, they too can be whatever they want to be. Children seeing and knowing about Latinxs who achieved their dreams makes everything more of a reality for them. Did you know that there are over a dozen Latinos who became NASA astronauts? Would it have influenced you to be one too? Let’s share these photos and stories, so we can have even more Latinos who shot for the stars and landed at NASA.
Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez
Cuban Arnaldo Tamayo Mendez shares the honor of being the first Latino in space, the first person of African descent in space, and the first Afro-Latino in space. He went from shining shoes and selling vegetables at 13, to spending over a week in space as part of the Soviet Union’s Intercosmos program.
Chicana Ellen Ochoa was once teased for liking science. She showed them, becoming the first Latina/Hispanic in space, and the first Latina/Hispanic, and second female director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
In 1986, Costa Rican Franklin Chang-Diaz became the first Latino U.S. citizen, third Latino, and first Asian-Latino to go into space. Chang-Diaz was part of seven space flights, spending over 66 days total in orbit.
Puerto Rican Joseph Acaba was born in Inglewood, California, and raised in Anaheim, In 2014, the former science teacher was selected by NASA to be part of the Educator Astronaut Program. Acaba was the first Puerto Rican to become a NASA astronaut candidate.
Christopher “Gus” Loria
Christopher “Gus” Loria was selected as the pilot for Space Shuttle mission STS-113, but a severe back injury kept him permanently grounded. Loria continued to succeed, however. Among his awards and achievements, Gus received the NASA Fellowship to the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and the Defense Superior Service Medal.
Rodolfo Neri Vela
Rodolfo Neri Vela has the honor of being the first Mexican, and the second Latino in space. He was born in Chilpancingo de los Bravo, Guerrero, and is of Spanish and Italian descent. Vela’s first mission, the STS-61-B Atlantis, was in 1985.
Albuquerque native Sidney Gutierrez, who became a NASA astronaut in 1985, spent over 20 days in space total. He is a veteran of two space flights and was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1995.
Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor
Cubana Serena Auñón-Chancellor is an inspiration triple threat: NASA astronaut, engineer, and doctor. She is the first Cuban-American astronaut, and currently in space, as you read this.
Chicano (with Purépecha heritage) engineer and NASA astronaut Jose Hernandez was the son of migrant farmers and moved between La Piedad, Michoacan, and California as a child. He learned to speak English at 12, and 35 years later was on the Space Shuttle Discovery. This was after 11 rejection letters from NASA. After hearing about Franklin Chang-Diaz being selected as an astronaut, Hernandez set his eyes on the goal of space and never gave up.
Peruvian Carlos Noriega was chosen to be an astronaut in 1994 and is the veteran of two space missions, one in 1997, and the other in 2000. His awards include two NASA Space Medals, a Navy Achievement Medal, and a NASA Exceptional Service Medal.
George D. Zamka
Colombian and Polish astronaut George Zamka has flown over 3500 hours in over 30 types of aircraft. As a NASA astronaut, he piloted the STS-120 mission to the International Space Station and was commander of the STS-130.
Fernando “Frank” Caldeiro
Argentino Fernando “Frank” Caldeiro, who passed away in 2009, was a NASA astronaut and scientist. He was selected as an astronaut in 1996, and in 2006, was chosen to serve on the President George W. Bush’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.
John D. Olivas
Raised in El Paso, Chicano John D. “Danny” Olivas was chosen to be an astronaut in 1998. He’s also an engineer and conducted the first-ever on-orbit repair of a Shuttle during a spacewalk.