Recently, engineer Kat Echazarreta (@katvoltage) shared a TikTok of her telling friends and family that she'd been accepted to journey to space. The video includes Kat telling her mother, sister, brother, and friends that she's been selected to go to space aboard Blue Origin’s NS-21 flight. She begins by sharing her mother's reaction, who immediately begins to cry at the good news.
The video also features Kat telling her sister and brother, who both react in disbelief. She finished off by telling her friends over FaceTime, to their shock.
Kat's video currently has 7.8M views, 1.2M likes, and a comments section that definitely shares her friends' and family's enthusiasm.
I recently spoke with Kat, a 27-year-old engineering student who said that she's always had an interest in space. She explained, "As a child, I would enroll myself in astronomy and science classes because I couldn't get enough." Kat studied electrical engineering at San Diego City College, a community college, before transferring to UCLA and applying to her dream internship at NASA. Six months before graduation, she received an offer to join NASA as an electrical engineer.
Kat was able to go to space after applying for a spot in Space for Humanity, a nonprofit program that specializes in the "Overview Effect," a program that accepts citizens into space programs in order to benefit and strengthen their relationship with Earth. Kat applied to the program in 2019, and was selected out of over 7,000 applicants. In 2021, Kat joined a crew of five people to not only become the first-ever citizen astronaut ambassador for Space for Humanity, but also the first Mexican-born female to fly to space.
Kat also explained, "I decided at 7 years old that I wanted to go to space. After making that choice, my mind never changed. How I would eventually get there was still up for debate, but the goal itself remained solid." While Kat has always been sure of her goals, she also explained, "I've been very aware of the realities for women in STEM and particularly minorities in STEM. As a child, I didn't understand why certain toys weren't for us or why in order to play with them, I had to go through my brother. I didn't understand why certain teachers didn't prioritize a little girl's understanding in science and math subjects."
She continued, "As I grew, I realized how those issues had negatively contributed to the lack of girls and women studying STEM fields. I've faced microaggressions and true aggressions due to the simple fact of wanting to study engineering. I've faced it from classmates, professors, and coworkers. However, beyond everything, my desire to learn and design technology was always my biggest inspiration."
Kat also said that the experience of sharing the good news with her friends and family was one of the highlights. She said, "Those closest to me have always believed in me even when nobody else did. The most beautiful thing was seeing their surprise at the news, but seeing that it wasn't coupled with shock because it truly was something seen as believable coming from me based on our experiences together."
She also explained her desire to use apps like TikTok to share her story and educate others, and said, "TikTok is a great platform because it allows us to immerse ourselves into experiences we maybe otherwise wouldn't be exposed to. I knew that by showing the entire process I could help inspire others to pursue STEM fields!"
Many of the commenters view Kat as a role model, an opinion that is echoed by many who have heard her story. She responded, "I think I've been granted a huge responsibility. Many people of all ages are currently looking to me as an example of dreams becoming a reality through hard work and dedication. I understand the importance of representation and role models in this industry."
And even though she's accomplished one of her dreams at 26, Kat said that she's got new goals with her newfound power and influence. She said, "I want to dedicate myself to making sure more Latinos are able to reach space. I'm currently working on creating a foundation in Mexico whose purpose will be to support individuals interested in breaking into the space industry and helping to develop a space industry in Mexico."