Valeria Salazar

Systems Engineer - NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)


High Tech High Chula Vista | Chula Vista, California

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo | San Luis Obispo, California

Aerospace Engineering

What first sparked your interest in space and science?

In an elementary school project, I learned about astronauts and immediately became fascinated by space exploration, science, and engineering. As I grew up and started thinking about careers, I researched the college majors that astronauts have pursued and came across aerospace engineering. I knew that's what I wanted to do.

How did you end up working in the space program?

Working at NASA was always my goal, so in college, I applied and was selected for a summer internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. I fell in love with the work we do at JPL, the amazing people, and the NASA missions. Supporting a mission for space exploration and science is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling to me. I love doing something that will benefit humanity for years to come!

Tell us about your job. What do you do?

I'm an integration and test engineer for NASA’s Europa Clipper mission. As a test engineer, I help plan and perform tests to ensure everything works as expected and that the spacecraft is ready for launch. I do testing both in the Europa System Testbed – which is a test venue that has copies of the hardware to perform ground testing, and with the Assembly Test and Launch Operations (ATLO) team on the actual flight hardware that will go to Jupiter’s moon Europa.

What's one piece of advice you would give to others interested in a similar career?

I think getting to know yourself and learning your passions, strengths, and interests will help you stay focused when pursuing long-term goals. Perseverance is key!

What is your favorite space image and why?

My favorite NASA image is the famous Pale Blue Dot image taken by Voyager 1. This picture of our home, Earth, really helps put things into perspective on our role in the universe. It reminds me of why I do my work and its importance.

Pale Blue Dot
The Pale Blue Dot is a photograph of Earth taken on Feb. 14, 1990, by NASA’s Voyager 1 at a distance of 3.7 billion miles (6 billion kilometers) from the Sun. The image inspired the title of scientist Carl Sagan's book, "Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space," in which he wrote: "Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us." Earth is visible as a bright speck within the sunbeam just right of center and appears softly blue.

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Where are they from?

Planetary science is a global profession.