Happy Cinco de Mayo! Today is the anniversary of the victory of the Mexican army over France at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Historians believe that if the Mexican troops would not have won this battle, the French would have allied with the Confederacy during the Civil War, which could have possibly changed the course of American history as we know it.
Today is also National Astronaut Day. One hundred years after the Battle of Puebla (99 years to be precise), Alan Shepard became the first American astronaut to fly into space on May 5, 1961. Shepard’s suborbital flight only lasted 15 minutes but marked the beginning of an era in human exploration of the Cosmos.
We have come a long way since then. American astronauts eventually landed on the Moon for the first time in 1969, and humans have also been living and working in Earth’s orbit every day since 2000. Several countries from around the world have recently signed the Artemis Accords, a framework for scientific cooperation between nations to return humans to the Moon and establish a sustainable presence on the lunar surface, before an eventual crewed mission to Mars. Nowadays, regular civilians can hitch a ride to space on commercial spacecraft and concepts for future space stations are being developed by various American companies. And another fun piece of history, last December Laura Shepard lifted off aboard Blue Origin’s suborbital space rocket New Shepard, named after her dad Alan Shepard.
So today I celebrate ‘por partida doble’. Cheers to all my Mexican friends and colleagues on this day and their accomplishments in so many fields of science and society. With Margaritas and guacamole 'en mano', I would like to highlight a few amazing individuals of Mexican heritage and their contributions to the space exploration sector:
Dr. Rodolfo Neri Vela is a mechanical engineer with a PhD in electromagnetic radiation and Mexico's first astronaut. Rodolfo was born in Chilpancingo, in the state of Guerrero, Mexico and served as a mission specialist for the joint NASA/European Space Agency mission STS-61B in 1985. He spent 165 hours in outer space aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis, helping to place in orbit the Mexican satellite Morelos 2.
Dr. Silvia Torres-Peimbert grew up in Mexico City and became the first Mexican woman to get a PhD in astronomy. She was the second woman and first Mexican to be President of the International Astronomical Union. Silvia’s fields of research include the theoretical and observational studies of interstellar matter and planetary nebulae.
Dr. Ellen Ochoa is a California-born Mexican-American astronaut and the first Latina in space! Ellen earned degrees in physics and electrical engineering and flew to space four times during the Space Shuttle program. Dr. Ochoa joined NASA in 1988 as a research engineer and was selected as an astronaut in 1990. Ellen also became Johnson Space Center’s first Hispanic director and its second female director. Prior to joining NASA Ellen worked as a research engineer at Sandia National Laboratories where she investigated optical systems.
Happy Cinco de Mayo and National Astronaut Day!
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