Filipino pride reached Mars, literally, over the weekend after three Fil-Ams helped land NASA's rover Perseverance on the Red Planet, including a woman, Genevie Yang.
The Filipina engineer is making her mark in the male-dominated field. Originally from Biñan, Laguna, at five years old she moved with her family to the U.S. where she was exposed to the world of space science.
"Even though my background isn't the highest.. I don't have master's degree, I only have a bachelors degree. They still require me as an engineer, they ask me questions, they look to me for answers. I really love working for NASA," Yang told GMA news.
Yang is no stranger to Mars. She first worked with Curiosity rover which landed in 2012, an experience she described as similar to "vacationing".
Seeing landscape images of the red planet, although in black and white, is "a sight to see and we are the lucky ones that get to view them and share them to the world," she wrote in her NASA biography.
Now, for Mars 2020 Perseverance, she is looking forward for the more advanced expedition to capture images in color.
"I tested the flight software to make sure that they're meeting the requirements and then I also moved on to the uplink team to generate commands to strengthen the spacecraft while we are at launch cruise," she told ANC, explaining her contributions.
The 292.5 million-mile journey from Earth couldn't have happened without her and the two other Fil-Ams—Engineers Edward Gonzalez and Gregorio Villar.
It took NASA 10 years of planning, just to get Perseverance to launch. It will stay there for one martian year which equates to two years in planet earth.
"So, we have to get a launch vehicle to get us up to Mars. It takes eight months of cruising through the outer space and then we have to go through landing. All of that takes a lot of work." she said.
The mission is particularly important, as it would gather samples of Martian rocks and soil which could help shed light on what happened to all the water in Mars. It could offer answers on how to keep water on earth safe to ensure humanity's survival.
The rover is also equipped with Ingenuity Mars helicopter, to attempt the first experimental flight test on another planet.
For her, especially in today's challenging period, Perseverance's successful landing is ultimately, a story of hope.
"Sometimes, you hear too much negativity in the news like COVID cases going up, there's attacks, there's politics as well. But this story is about hope and how we can put our differences aside and no matter what your background is, or different race, where you work...together we can just accomplish anything," she said.