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 a NASA intern, cannot imagine the road she has taken.

As a child, the young woman grew up in the Dominican Republic and did not have access to education. She eventually relocated to New York, where she encountered an even harsher reality: she visited violent areas, had limited access to school, and was homeless in one of the major cities in the United States.

But there was always something that piqued her interest: what could explain space? The doubts stem from her childhood, when she endured blackouts in her hometown. She was obliged to survive solely by the light of the moon throughout those times.

“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.”

It was the many unanswered questions that helped her through the storm. Before arriving at university, Rose worked as a home health assistant and studied through EJA (Youth and Adult Education). She still needed to recover from a hit-and-run and cancer treatment.

It was only after that that she was finally able to enroll in college. In July of this year, she received the email of her life: 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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