To this laid-off engineer, SpaceX launch serves as a beacon of hope

SpaceX rocket launch signals hope
SpaceX rocket launch signals hope 02:21

When SpaceX launches, a lot of Americans will be hanging on every vertical mile. Especially this woman, Itza Rodriguez. 

What does this mean to her?

"It's just a lot of emotions," Itza said. "You go back to when you were launching your rocket."

When Itza was in high school, she was in the Presidio rocket club. Poor and impoverished, Presidio, Texas, was hardly the place you'd expect to find budding aerospace engineers. But as I first reported in 2012, they had a firecracker of a teacher named Shella Condino.

"I wanted to teach the kids — you wanted something so bad, you put your heart into it," Shella said. 

Shella was such a motivating force, her kids would get up before sunrise to learn and launch. And they did well. Using equipment that was begged, borrowed and broken — on a budget of bake sales, barbecues and a goat auction — the kids from Presidio went on to become some of the best rocketry students in the country.

Ana Nieto is now an engineer at Aurora Flight Sciences. Her sister, a chemist. And, of course, Itza, who got a degree in mechanical engineering. The rocket club have had something to do with that. 

Itza got a great job at Boeing — or I should say had a great job at Boeing. This week, she and thousands of others were laid off. And yet Itza is as fired up as anyone for America's return to piloted space flight. 

Because we're not just launching a rocket on Saturday — we're launching a metaphor for these troubled times.

"The world is going through this horrible situation," Itza said. "A lot of people are getting affected. But if you go down, it's OK. Get up and start all over again."

And so Godspeed to this space ship — and all those inspired by her.


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  • Steve Hartman
    Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.