“NASA’s next generation of Natives: After the moon it’s the 2020 Mission to Mars.” A Chavez, ICM
Excerpt: By A. Chavez, ICM
“Aaron Yazzie follows the footsteps of Native pioneers like John Herrington and Jerry Elliot; NASA now has some 21 Native American employees.
Aaron Yazzie sometimes felt like he was in a ‘little bubble’ growing up on the Navajo Nation reservation in Holbrook, Arizona.
He doesn’t remember learning about the exact happenings of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. The bulk of his information came from the movies.
That is, until he graduated from Stanford University, and then became a mechanical engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
In November, he played a part in building hardware on the InSight Mars Lander whose mission is to map out the structure of Mars. He built the spacecraft’s pressure inlet, a device that accurately monitors the pressure of the Red Planet’s atmosphere.
While Earth and Mars are a mere 250 million miles away, Yazzie says they are more in common than one would think. For him, this has been an unexpected way to think about the planet.
Yazzie, 33, credits his success to the mentorship he received through the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. He has been a member since high school.
It was at an AISES conference where Yazzie first met other Natives working at NASA like Herrington and Elliott.
‘I’ve always looked up to them,’ Yazzie said. ‘They have been leaders and elders in STEM. I always wanted to follow in their path.’
He is currently working on a new mission: Mars 2020. This time, he is building a tool to be able to drill holes into rocks and pull out samples. Their hope is that the first man (or woman) on Mars will bring the samples back to earth with them.”
“John Bennett Herrington (Chickasaw Nation) is a retired United States Naval Aviator and former NASA astronaut. In 2002, Herrington became the first enrolled member of a Native American tribe to fly in space.” -Wikipedia
Jerry C. Elliot (Cherokee,Osage) “Jerry joined NASA in April, 1966, as a Flight Mission Operations Engineer at NASA’s Mission Control Center, and has held progressively responsible technical and managerial positions with highly successful accomplishments in the fields of spacecraft systems, hardware, software, configuration design, trajectories, mission operations, Earth resources, astronaut crew equipment, scientific experiments and technical management.” -NASA