Rose Ferreira: the astrophysicist who went from living on the street to studying the stars

Anyone looking at Rose Ferreira, an astronomy student at Arizona State University and an intern at NASA, cannot imagine the path that hides behind her successful curriculum.

The young woman grew up in the Dominican Republic and did not have access to education as a child. She later moved to New York, where she faced an even harsher reality: she frequented violent regions, had minimal access to education and was homeless in one of the largest US cities.

But something has always intrigued her: what could explain space? The questioning comes from childhood, when she experienced blackout days in her home community. In those moments, she was forced to live only with the light of the moon.

“The Moon was a lot of what I used to see and I was always curious about it,” he said, in NASA news website interview. "That obsession is what made me start asking questions."

The numerous unresolved questions helped her get through the storm. Rose worked as a home health aide before attending university and studied through EJA (Youth and Adult Education). She still had to heal from a car accident and cancer treatment.

It wasn't until after that that she was allowed to enrol in college. She received the email of her life in July of this year: she was going to be an intern at NASA.

Dream of being an astronaut

If as a child Rose Ferreira didn't even know what NASA was, today she wants to become an astronaut for the US space agency. She says that she felt the greatest emotion of her life when she saw for the first time the image of a field of galaxies in the James Webb telescope, in July.

“I went into the bathroom and cried a little,” he recalls, now laughing. “Being able to contribute in some way to the efforts of the NASA team felt like such a strong thing to me. After that, I was in shock for a week.”

In his internship, Ferreira advised the teams that launched the largest space science telescope of all time at the Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

She also supported live interviews on James Webb's first released images and other multimedia assignments for NASA's Spanish-language communications program. Now, her short-term goal is to earn a doctoral degree. And, then, who knows how to fulfill the dream of being an astronaut.

“Discover what you love”

Rose Ferreira left a piece of advice for young people who also want to follow space science. “Coming from a person who had a little more trouble getting there, I think, first, find out if it's really what you love,” she advises.

"And if it's really what you love," then literally find a way to do it, no matter who says what."

She says the process, while difficult, was worth it. Her interest now lies in the Artemis mission, which will explore the Moon, her longtime “friend”.

“Even when I lived on the streets, the moon used to be the thing I looked to to calm myself down. It’s my sense of comfort even today when I’m overwhelmed with things,” she said. "It's my driving force."


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