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Costa Rican at the Head of the Mars Mission Receives Award

Costa Rica News – The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) awarded the Costa Rican engineer, Sandra A. Cauffman, a Medal for Extraordinary Leadership.

Sandra A. Cauffman nasaThis distinction is given for specific achievements or for substantial improvements made in operations, efficiency, service, financial savings or technological and scientific advances which contribute towards NASA’s motto: “For the Benefit of All”.

The prize went to the woman who is an alumnus of both the Escuela República in Paraguay (Hatillo) and the Liceo Luis Dobles Segreda (San José) for her work as assistant director for a mission involving 400 scientists who, in a few days, will be launching a probe the size of a school bus to monitor the atmosphere around Mars.

This is not even her first award, for in 2008 she won the Medal for Exceptional Achievements.

The awards ceremony took place yesterday in the Centro de Vuelos Especiales Goddard in Maryland (United States), led by the center’s director, Christopher Scolese.

Specifically, Cauffman was recognised for her notable leadership in the birth, development and execution of the space satellite, MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution).

As well as meeting all of their plans, deadlines and budgets, Cauffman and her team managed to obtain a bonus figure of around $671 million, which NASA added to their mission.

“I always think that what we do, we do ourselves, even though the rest of the world could be in the same position, but when the Center’s director says that we’re to be responsible for putting a probe in a rocket which could explode, we do feel proud of ourselves as a team”, an emotional Cauffman said yesterday in a telephone interview. Cauffman herself has been involved in the launching of dozens of missions over the last 25 years.

With their studies, they’re hoping to learn about how volatile compounds such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and water are lost.

“Excuse the expression, but wow! This is really special and out of this world”, said the Costa Rican scientist when summing up how she felt at receiving this prestigious award.

Translated by Leah Hendre from La Nacion

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