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A Colombian is the new head of landing and recovery of Artemis

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A Colombian is the new head of landing and recovery of Artemis

When Lili Villarreal was seven years old, her family went to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. From that moment on, Villarreal was captivated by space exploration. Villareal was recently named director of landing and recovery for NASA’s Artemis II mission in the agency’s Exploration Earth Systems program at the Kennedy Space Center, and is responsible for efforts to recover astronauts from the Orion spacecraft. after his splashdown in the Pacific Ocean after his future 10-day mission around the Moon.

“I didn’t know what space was until I got to the visitor center, and we looked at all the rockets in the exhibit, we saw a space suit that went to the moon… and I couldn’t believe that we humans had done that.” Villarreal said. “And I said, ‘That’s it, that’s what I want to do.’”

Originally from Cartagena, Colombia, Villareal and her family moved to Miami, Florida when she was 10 years old. Because she wanted to work in the space program, Villarreal earned a bachelor’s of science and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. After graduation, she went to work for Boeing in Seattle, on commercial aircraft, before moving south to join NASA as a Boeing contractor.

Villarreal, who lives with her husband and son in Melbourne, Florida, joined NASA in 2007. Before becoming director of landing and recovery, Villarreal served as deputy flow director for the Artemis I mission, responsible for mission integration , assembly and testing of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft inside the Kennedy Center Vehicle Assembly Building before engineers brought them to the launch pad.

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“When they asked me to do the job [de directora de aterrizaje y recuperación]I thought about it a lot. I really wanted to do it because it is exciting and rewarding work, but it also comes with great responsibility. As the recovery director, you are not only responsible for the safety of the crew, but you are also in charge of the safety of everyone who helps recover the crew,” Villarreal said.

During his career at NASA, Villareal also worked in the Operations Division of the International Space Station program.

“I didn’t grow up with [el programa] Apollo, but when I started working here, I had the opportunity to meet people who were on those missions, and you could feel how proud they were to have been a part of something so amazing for humanity,” Villarreal said. “I worked on the space station program for more than 15 years. I was ready to come and dedicate myself to Artemis because I wanted to be part of the team that was taking humanity back to the Moon and, later, to Mars. And I thought if I could be a part of that in any way, I wanted to do it.”

While teams with Exploration Ground Systems and the Department of Defense successfully recovered the Orion spacecraft after the Artemis I splashdown, there were no astronauts aboard this uncrewed flight test to allow engineers to understand the rocket system. and the spaceship before taking crew members to the Moon.

From now until Artemis II, the staff will rehearse all the steps and procedures to make sure they are ready for manned flights. This involves several recovery tests, currently underway, in which teams from NASA and the US Navy will practice retrieving astronauts with a representative version of Orion at sea to bring them—the astronauts and Orion—from I return to the ship. The teams will also conduct tests at the Kennedy Center.

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“That is my job: to train the different teams to be able to recover the crew,” Villarreal said. “We have to recover the crew in the open ocean for two hours after splashdown before we get the capsule into the well deck.” with RSF

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