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Meet the host of NASA's first Spanish-language podcast

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Three, two, one. And liftoff.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

That's the sound of NASA's Artemis I rocket as it lifted off this week after months of delays. Its cargo, the Orion spacecraft, on its way to a lunar orbit. No humans on board, but it's part of NASA's preparation to send two astronauts, including the first woman and first person of color, back to the moon as early as 2025.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "UNIVERSO CURIOSO DE LA NASA")

NOELIA GONZALEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

MARTIN: While blazing a path back to the moon, NASA is also blazing a new trail in a different way - tracking the mission's progress with its first Spanish-language podcast.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "UNIVERSO CURIOSO DE LA NASA")

GONZALEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

MARTIN: That is Noelia Gonzalez, the host of "Universo Curioso De La NASA" or "NASA's Curious Universe." The podcast, which actually launched late last year, is part of a wider push, NASA en Espanol, that includes live launch broadcasts and YouTube videos in Spanish. And joining us now from the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland is the host of "Universo Curioso De La NASA," Noelia Gonzalez, who just returned from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Noelia Gonzalez, thank you so much for joining us.

GONZALEZ: Thank you for having me, Michel.

MARTIN: Congratulations to all at NASA on the Artemis launch and for the podcast, too. I mean - I don't know - that just must have felt great.

GONZALEZ: It does. And it just makes you smile. It was just incredible.

MARTIN: Well, tell us, if you would, about the wider push to engage with a Spanish-speaking audience. What are some of the other projects that you have going, and why do you think it matters?

GONZALEZ: Yeah, so NASA en Espanol was launched in 2019, but it was just to formalize something that was already being born thanks to the Hispanic workforce in the agency that is just so eager to communicate with their, you know, their communities. And so we have the podcast that is our latest effort, but we also do broadcasts in Spanish. For example, in 2021, we did the landing on Mars in Spanish, you know, hosted by Diana Trujillo, flight director that was also very involved in the mission of Perseverance Rover and also the helicopter Ingenuity. And when Perseverance first landed on Mars, Diana shouted, (speaking Spanish), meaning, we have arrived - (speaking Spanish). And that was - it's just a broadcast that keeps growing in numbers. And people really, really responded to that, you know, the fact that we are providing them with these very important mission milestones that NASA has in their own language.

MARTIN: Just thinking off the top of your head, are there any interviews you've had that stand out to you or are there any particular interviews that have really resonated with the audience?

GONZALEZ: Definitely. To me, they're all my favorite. I did an interview with Ivette Rivera Aponte. And she's a civil engineer. And she's involved in many systems related to the SLS rocket that we just launched. And she is just so enthusiastic about the mission and her job.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "UNIVERSO CURIOSO DE LA NASA")

IVETTE RIVERA APONTE: (Speaking Spanish).

GONZALEZ: This is my favorite soundbite because it just gives me goosebumps. She's basically saying that the kids that are now in school are the ones who are going to take us to Mars. And so we have that in mind all the time when we communicate in Spanish. We are trying to inspire the next generations of kids and youth that, you know, maybe, you know, gain an interest in space and exploration because of these products, this communication product that we are providing them.

MARTIN: You know, I just can't help but see parallels in some of your work highlighting the contributions of Latinos and Latinas at NASA. And I'm thinking about - remember that film, "Hidden Figures," that showed how three African American women were key to launching John Glenn into orbit? And it kind of reminds me of that. But I'm also hearing what you're saying about, like, this is laying the groundwork for the future. And what do you think is the end goal of the project? Is it, in part, to inspire parents who may speak Spanish but whose children are bilingual to continue to encourage their children on this path? Is it, in part, to let the audience know that, like, this is for everyone, that space is for everyone? Is it, in part, to sort of lift up the Spanish speakers at NASA? What do you think is the end goal?

GONZALEZ: I think it's all of that that you just mentioned. When we first launched - the first pilot podcast that we did about Webb, and we had all these comments from people, you know, immigrants who are bilingual in the U.S. And they speak mainly English, and they are so passionate about space. And then they were telling us how they were able to share with their parents who do not speak English, only Spanish, you know, something that they cared about and they were interested about. And just seeing the podcast being that link between, you know, that family and allowing them to, you know, get together and discuss these missions and talk about this, that was, you know, it's just one of the goals, of course.

But then, yeah, I mean, we also get comments from parents who are excited about their kids being able to, you know, watch this broadcast, listen to this podcast and just, you know, oir this video about the Ingenuity Mars helicopter. One of the main goals is to inspire our audience, to inform them. Of course, maybe they are not very familiar with this NASA mission, maybe they are, and they just want to learn more. But, of course, we want to show them then that this is for them as well.

MARTIN: You know, there are going to be skeptics. There are going to be people who will question, you know, the value of doing a broadcast in Spanish. And for those who do, what would you say?

GONZALEZ: Spanish is the second-most-spoken language in the U.S., in the world is also the second-most-spoken language. It is expected to keep growing. And these figures are not hidden. They are there. And we're trying to put them forward and show them and speak about them and talk about their stories, their journey to NASA, their journey to working in space exploration and at the agency. And so this is just the beginning.

MARTIN: I can imagine. And also, just looping back to where we started our conversation, you were part of the live broadcast the NASA en Espanol team hosted online as the Artemis I rocket prepared to blast off for the moon. This is the most powerful rocket ever. And I just - you know I'm jealous, OK, so I'll just try to contain that. But you saw this in person, and then you got to share that with your listeners. Can you just describe what was that like?

GONZALEZ: Yeah. So it was like the whole thing wrapped around you. Like, you were inside the launch. You know, you were not just looking at it. You were feeling delight that - all of a sudden, it was daylight, you know, the launch hub in the middle of the night. And then I felt like I was thinking, OK, we are making history. This is history and witnessing history in the making, and also thinking of all the people that we know, that we've spoken to and interviewed that contributed to this mission. I was thinking, they made this happen. They did it. They succeeded. They just succeeded. A little bit of nostalgia, too, because we were seeing the SLS leave Earth forever. You know, we got used to seeing it on the pad and talking about it. Ultimately, it was a wonderful experience. And I really hope I don't forget the memory that I have of it.

MARTIN: That was Noelia Gonzalez, the host of NASA's first Spanish-language podcast, "Universo Curioso De La NASA." You can find current episodes of the show on NASA's website as well as Apple Podcasts. Noelia Gonzalez, congratulations on everything. Thank you so much for joining us.

GONZALEZ: Thank you so much, Michel. It was great to be here with you today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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