Martes 12 de Marzo 2024

Fatima, the Michoacan Woman Awarded by NASA

The Aeronautical Engineering student, who was awarded first place by the Moon Colonization Program for her project Astromenstrus, spoke with Mente Mujer

Créditos: Courtesy: Fátima López,
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Nineteen-year-old Fatima López, a Mexican student, has won a 100 percent scholarship to attend a program at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) after finding a solution to ensure that menstruation does not hinder women from traveling to space. "Let's not let our dreams be paused."

The Aeronautical Engineering student, who was awarded first place by the Moon Colonization Program for her project Astromenstrus, spoke with Mente Mujer, saying that her "participation came during the pandemic, when I was only 17 years old. It was a huge achievement because the other contestants were older and more educated."

She clarified that she gave up many activities typical of her age to fulfill her dream and believes that every sacrifice is worth it because "there will be many parties, outings with friends, and perhaps many sleepless nights, but when you achieve what you set out to do, it's for a lifetime."

Her journey to NASA began with her participation in the Moon Colonization Program by AEXA Aerospace, where her project Astromenstrus, focused on creating personal hygiene items for astronauts using 3D printing, won first place.

This achievement opened doors for Fatima, originally from Santa Ana Maya, Michoacán, to receive a scholarship for the Air and Space Program 2022 Fall course at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Leyenda:  Fátima López, Courtesy

Fatima said that during the pandemic, she felt inadequate because "I couldn't do anything more than stay inside my house, so I enrolled in the virtual program to pass the time – so to speak – but it taught me to be self-taught."

During the program, they worked on aerospace topics, then "we were asked to develop a project to make life easier for lunar colonizers, to help with the difficulties they may encounter."

"For me, being in that program meant something big, which I like to share with other students, children, or young people, so they don't feel inferior when surrounded by older people (in quotation marks), because we never know the great potential that each of us has," highlighted Fatima.

Astrometrus arose spontaneously when they were requesting projects in one of the virtual meetings. "I started to have my menstrual symptoms – there I thought – I'm going to work on that, but for women going to space," she recalled.

She explained that the program coordinators were surprised by the proposal. "Sadly, there are very few scientific articles on the subject. I focused on finding information in countries that are booming in the space sector like Russia, Japan, the United States, and Europe, but the little information available is only found in English and has been done by NASA."

"The topic also occurred to me because I had heard the story of Sally Ride, the first woman sent by NASA into space. Before starting her mission, they gave her a bag with 100 tampons, asking her if it was enough for a week-long space mission," the young woman contextualized.

Ride laughed at the question and reflected, "How was it possible that among the brightest minds working on very difficult issues related to aeronautics, they didn't know how to handle menstrual periods, something so natural for every woman?"

During her research, Fatima discovered that due to menstruation, "many women could not fulfill their dream of becoming astronauts because it was one of the excuses presented to pause that dream.

"It was said that fluids and things float in space. It was believed that the fluid would rise to the organs and that could cause death, so they justified that women couldn't go to space, let alone because they menstruate, but a solution was never sought," she pointed out.

She also found that astronaut Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor managed to determine that 'a woman's reproductive system works the same on Earth as it does in space.'

"From that, I understood that there was the solution. What was needed was research because the problem arises when the fluid leaves the woman's body; capturing it is the challenge."

"Before, if a woman wanted to go to space, she had to take contraceptives for 11 years to fulfill her dream. Knowing this was another emotional blow. I think no woman needs to undergo such treatment to become an astronaut. Every woman should have her menstruation in a dignified manner," she concluded.

The interviewee said, "I tell Mexican women that if they want to work together, collaborate, create an idea, regardless of the field they are specialized in or interested in, we can create a big project.

"I'm inviting all women, girls, or young women from Mexico and other parts of the planet to research more about how our body works, how we can help it, how we can support those women who want to be astronauts to fulfill their dreams.

"Let's be honest, it's very difficult for us to get involved in those kinds of areas. For a woman to be an engineer is something very complex because of the comments we receive about it. There are many professors who make you feel morally bad about it in the year 2024," she emphasized.

Leyenda:  Fátima López, Courtesy

Fatima made it clear that all criticisms they receive should be "one more point of inspiration. Saying no doesn't affect me, and I'll put more effort into it, not to prove to others that it's possible, but to prove to myself that leaving behind those comments one can move forward," she concluded.

By Israel López Gutiérrez


*Para leer la entrevista realizada por el suplemento Mente Mujer de El Heraldo de México en español da clic AQUÍ.