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. 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. Cauffman is the first Costa Rican woman to lead a Mars-related mission.
Cauffman, daughter of María Jerónima Rojas, was born in Costa Rica in an uniparental home of very scarce resources in Hatillo. She grew up extremely poor, but refused to give up her love for space science. 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. Cauffman recalls that she had a difficult childhood, moving often and with her mother working two or three jobs at a time. Her mother, however, supported Cauffman's dreams and whenever Cauffman thought things were too hard, she looked to her mother for inspiration.
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.  At George Mason, she learned English.
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). With this position, she became widely recognized in her native country, Costa Rica. She was recognized personally by NASA with the Exceptional Achievement Medal for her work on MAVEN. Cauffman has also been awarded the NASA Acquisition Improvement Award and the NASA Exceptional Leadership Medal. 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.
As of 2014, she was only one of 4 Costa Ricans working for NASA. 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. Cauffman gave a Young TEDx talk in 2014 to inspire young people to dream. Cauffman wants all young people to believe that even if they have come from a poor family, that they can still reach their goals. After her retirement, she is planning to help support STEM for young people in Costa Rica. 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.
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