“I came [to the United States] in ’83 and in ’98, I was invited to go back to Costa Rica. The first Hispanic astronaut that NASA ever had is a Costa Rican — Franklin Chang Diaz. So everyone was talking about Franklin.
“At that point I had been working for NASA for seven years.
“All of a sudden, I had little girls and women coming to me, wanting to ask me about engineering. I resisted it at first, because I thought, they only care about the astronauts. That’s what ran through my head at first. I didn’t think I had done anything at that point. I didn’t think that I could be a role model.
“But as time went on, people started to hear about me more in Costa Rica, and eventually throughout Latin America. I got requests to travel all over to give talks — all the way from Mexico down to Chile. I cannot tell you when it was, but I realized, there are so many men in this field. When a little kid draws an engineer or a scientist, they tend to draw men.
“But here I am. And maybe I haven’t accomplished everything I want to do. But I can show little girls and little boys out there that it doesn’t matter where you come from. You can be anything that you want to, even when you have had a very difficult upbringing.”
— Sandra Cauffman, Deputy Director, Astrophysics Division, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters
Image Credit: NASA / Aubrey Gemignani
Interviewer: NASA / Thalia Patrinos