Sandra Cauffman

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Sandra Cauffman, deputy project manager for the MAVEN mission.

Sandra Cauffman (born May 10, 1962) is a Costa Rican specialist in electrical engineering and physics. She is very well known because of her work at NASA in different projects. Her profile has been highlighted by UN Women for being a positive example for women, especially, youth and children.[1] Cauffman worked for 25 years at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD in missions such as the mission to Mars MAVEN, and Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite GOES-R. She is currently the Deputy Director of the Earth Sciences Division within the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC. Cauffman, who started as a contractor with NASA on February 1, 1988 and became a NASA employee February 11, 1991.[2] Cauffman is the first Costa Rican woman to lead a Mars-related mission.[3]


Cauffman, daughter of María Jerónima Rojas, was born in Costa Rica in an uniparental home of very scarce resources in Hatillo.[4] She grew up extremely poor, but refused to give up her love for space science.[5] Cauffman had been inspired by the first moon landing and recalled that she told her mother that she too, wanted to go to the moon.[1] Cauffman recalls that she had a difficult childhood, moving often and with her mother working two or three jobs at a time.[6] Her mother, however, supported Cauffman's dreams and whenever Cauffman thought things were too hard, she looked to her mother for inspiration.[7]

Cauffman attended the University of Costa Rica before transferring to George Mason University where she double majored in engineering and physics. Cauffman has a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering also from George Mason University. [8] At George Mason, she learned English.[9]


Sandra Cauffman has worked in distinct missions for NASA. Previously she was the deputy director of the project Mission of Atmospheric and Volatile Evolution of Mars (MAVEN).[10] With this position, she became widely recognized in her native country, Costa Rica.[11] She was recognized personally by NASA with the Exceptional Achievement Medal for her work on MAVEN.[12] Cauffman has also been awarded the NASA Acquisition Improvement Award and the NASA Exceptional Leadership Medal.[13] Afterwards, she worked as deputy director of the Program of System of Satellites Geostationary GOES-R. Currently she is the assistant director of NASA's Division of Earth Sciences.[14]

As of 2014, she was only one of 4 Costa Ricans working for NASA.[8] On many of the projects she worked on, including the Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission 1, she was often the only engineer on the team.[15] Cauffman gave a Young TEDx talk in 2014 to inspire young people to dream.[16] Cauffman wants all young people to believe that even if they have come from a poor family, that they can still reach their goals.[7] After her retirement, she is planning to help support STEM for young people in Costa Rica.[6] In 2016, Cauffman helped six high-school students from Costa Rica to visit Cape Canaveral as VIP guests for the launch of the GOES satellite.[17]


  1. ^ a b "Sandra Cauffman: From Costa Rica to Mars". Beijing+20. UN Women. 20 May 2014. Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  2. ^ "Tica Sandra Cauffman asume alto cargo en NASA". La Nación (in Spanish). 23 May 2016. Retrieved 2016-05-30.
  3. ^ González, Andrea (4 November 2015). "Sandra Cauffman compartirá su valentía con líderes costarricenses". Revista Perfil (in Spanish). Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  4. ^ "Sandra Cauffman: Dueña de su destino". Retrieved 2016-05-30.
  5. ^ Vargas, Alejandra (24 October 2014). "Sandra Cauffman: En la vida hay que soñar alto, pero también actuar". La Nacion (in Spanish). Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  6. ^ a b Fendt, Lindsay (19 September 2014). "Meet Sandra Cauffman, the Tica co-directing NASA's current mission to Mars". The Tico Times. Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  7. ^ a b Manzano, Gador (2 June 2016). "Sandra soñó con ir a la luna y aterrizó en las estrellas". El Pais (in Spanish). Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  8. ^ a b "Mars Wish: Mason Alumna Makes NASA Dream Come True". Mason Spirit. 21 September 2014. Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  9. ^ "Diario 'El País' le dedica amplio reportaje a la tica Sandra Cauffman de la NASA". Teletica (in Spanish). 2 June 2016. Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  10. ^ Fernanda Cruz, María (17 September 2014). "Sandra Cauffman. Guía espacial para creer en la esperanza". Revista Perfil (in Spanish). Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  11. ^ NASA Goddard (2012-04-26), NASA | MAVEN Profiles: Sandra Cauffman, consultado el 2016-05-26 
  12. ^ Vargas, Alejandra (16 September 2014). "Misión liderada por tica llegará a Marte el domingo". La Nacion. Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  13. ^ 26 February 2015. "Reach, Strive, Achieve: Sandra Cauffman's TEDx Talk". Goddard Media Studios. NASA. Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  14. ^ "Costa Rican Engineer Named New Assistant Director at NASA". Costa Rican Times. 24 May 2016. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
  15. ^ Rich, Colleen Kearney (21 April 2015). "Mission Control". Mason Spirit. Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  16. ^ "Sandra Cauffman nos invita a soñar". Teletica (in Spanish). 22 October 2014. Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  17. ^ Stanley, Katherine (8 March 2016). "Costa Rican students get the surprise of a lifetime: a trip to NASA". The Tico Times. Retrieved 21 July 2016.

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