Holbrook’s Navajo engineer inspires as his NASA career soars to great heights

Aaron Yazzie sails on Martian missions like Curiosity, Insight, and the most recent, Perseverance, which landed on the Red Planet in February.

HOLBROOK, Arizona – From a small town in Arizona to Mars, a Navajo mechanical engineer from Holbrook is making his mark in space. And it inspires the Arizonans who return here to Earth at the same time.

Aaron Yazzie works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“What I never thought I could do is have the opportunity to work at an institution like NASA, especially while I was still trying to find my feet at Stanford,” Yazzie said.

Yazzie is Navajo, born in Tuba City and raised in the small town of Holbrook.

Today, he’s busy navigating Martian missions like Curiosity, Insight, and the most recent, Perseverance, which landed on the Red Planet in February.

“It’s also very rewarding to see the things you’ve been working on succeeding, coming to Mars,” he said. “I got to see us drilling our first rocks and getting our first rock samples.”

Yazzie also holds a firm hold on her strong roots, family, and community in Arizona, coming home often and staying connected.

“Not only to work to be a good representative, but also to work to preserve this culture, to preserve this language,” he said.

Yazzie’s career is booming. However, his path to a career at NASA did not happen overnight. It all started with local pre-college programs aimed at helping Native Americans apply to college and discover their passions.

“It’s also because of one of those programs that I was first told that you were smart and that you might actually have a chance to get into a place like Stanford,” he said. -he declares. “So I never really set my goals that high and it really opened my eyes to what could be possible.”

Two of Yazzie’s biggest missions these days involve engineering for NASA in space and inspiring the younger generation.

“I really hope that people, especially people in my community, whether it’s a small rural community or a Native American community, I hope they don’t eliminate themselves from these big ones. dreams that may exist, ”Yazzie said.

Students who are starting to embark on their own professional journey, looking for a place to land.

“Just because they never see someone like them or maybe from their community who has done these things before doesn’t mean it’s not open to you, that you can’t be the one doing it. “, he said.

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