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Rutgers Student Makes Long Journey

From Immigration Battle to Outer Space


NASA’s Diana Trujillo discusses Rutgers student’s persistence in her quest to become an astronaut

 New Brunswick, N.J. (Sept. 30, 2019) – Becoming an astronaut is challenging for anyone, but Marissa Navarro’s dream was complicated by an eight-year fight to stay in the United States. Today, however, the Mexican immigrant is one step closer to her goal of reaching
outer space.

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Navarro, an electrical and computer engineering student at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, spent last summer mentored by NASA aerospace engineer Diana Trujillo, who was mission lead on the Mars Curiosity Rover. Navarro also secured a position with HawkEye 360, a space-based global intelligence company, and is slated to graduate next spring with a degree from Rutgers’ School of Engineering.

Navarro ‘s academic journey took three times longer than most students because of immigration hurdles.  “Looking back, I wouldn’t want to be graduating at 30, but because it took this long I value my education in a way that I think other students don’t,” she said.


Navarro first traveled to the United States in 2008 as part of an au pair program that allows eligible immigrants to stay in the country temporarily while they live with host families, performing 40 hours of childcare services a week. She started college in 2007 at Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico, where she majored in mechanical and electrical engineering. After watching an International Space Station mission on TV, she decided to focus on becoming an astronaut. In 2011, just a year before graduation, she and her husband first tried to move to United States in search of greater opportunities.


“Bottom line — Marissa is a woman who knows what she wants and she goes out there and builds a plan to get it. She’s not leaving it up to chance and that’s something not many young people do,” said Trujillo, who is NASA’s Mars 2020 deputy surface phase lead. “I also graduated when I was much older than everyone else because of immigration hurdles, and these hurdles only made us work harder.”


Read the full story on Rutgers Today.