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Latino Daily News

Friday August 31, 2012

Hispanic NASA Mission Director Shares his Story, Advice

Hispanic NASA Mission Director Shares his Story, Advice

Photo: Arthur Amador

Click Here to Enlarge Photo

Inspired by the arrival at the planet Mars of the first Viking probe in 1976, Arthur Amador decided to pursue his studies with the aim of working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where today he is the only Hispanic on the team of mission directors for the Mars rover Curiosity.

“I’m in charge of a flight team that consists of ... (50) engineers with many specialties,” Amador, one of the five mission managers who each day decides which tasks the rover will perform on the Martian surface, told Efe.

Among Curiosity’s objectives are to determine whether the basic chemical components for life exist on Mars, detect any traces of biological processes and verify the composition of the minerals on and below the planet’s surface.

Born on April 11, 1958, in Los Angeles, Arthur Victor Amador is the son of Arturo Julian Amador and Laura Fernandez, two Cuban immigrants who came to the California metropolis to live in 1954.

“I remember I was in high school when I became fascinated to learn that the first probe, Viking, was on the surface of Mars and then I saw the photos it sent in the newspapers, (and they were) surprising,” he said.

Graduating with a computer science degree from California State University, Los Angeles, in 1986, Amador began working at JPL the following year.

“One of my university professors worked on two projects at JPL and he brought me along to supervise the work. That’s how my relationship with NASA started. After I graduated, I filled out an employment application and they hired me,” Amador said.

“I began working on the computer programs for the Galileo project that in 1989 was sent on a mission to study the planet Jupiter and its moon system,” he said.

Amador worked on the team that programmed the first two Mars robots - Spirit and Opportunity - which were sent to the Red Planet in 2003 to explore the surface.

During the Martian nights at Curiosity’s location, Amador directs the programming of the rover’s tasks for the next day.

“In the morning on Mars, when the Sun comes up, the vehicle prepares to receive instructions, a communication from Earth,” Amador said.

“And here, from Earth, from one of the buildings here (at JPL), we send it those instructions, which are the instructions for that sol, that Martian day,” he added.

“My advice to Latinos who want to work for NASA is to let your passion for sciences, mathematics (and) engineering guide you,” Amador said.

“You can do what you set forth to do if you let yourself be guided by your passion and never give up,” he concluded.