The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines - A Filipino NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) engineer is part of the team that landed the ‘Curiosity’ rover on Mars Sunday.
Operations systems engineer Gregory Galgana Villar III was born in the States, although he went to the St. Louis University Laboratory High School in Baguio City, where his parents are from, according to the Huffington Post.
In an interview with “one of NASA's youngest engineers on the rover mission,” HuffPost quoted him as saying that landing the rover on Mars “was unreal.”
“I couldn't hold myself back - we were jumping up and down, hugging each other, tearing up,” he said. As soon as they received photos of the neighboring planet’s surface, “We were just blown away once again!”
According to HuffPost, Villar, who works in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, started his career with the organization with an internship during his junior year at the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
Of the mission’s success, he said, “I hope that it will continue to inspire people and show decision makers in our government that these types of missions are essential to our progression as humans. And I hope the youth are inspired.”
Community news website Montrose-La Crescenta Patch also interviewed Villar prior to Curiosity’s landing, and asked him about what makes that particular Mars mission different from the rest.
“Curiosity is the biggest and most sophisticated rover that has ever been sent to Mars. [It] is the size of Mini Cooper and weighs almost 2,000 pounds,” he replied. The rover was “placed on the surface of Mars using a very complex landing system.” It was also “equipped with 10 scientific payloads, a total of 17 cameras, an arm, a drill, and a battery powered by heat from naturally decaying radioactive material.”
His job involved “coordinating operational readiness tests for the different phases of the mission,” and “making sure all of the tools, procedures, process and interactions between the teams function correctly, while under a flight-like timeline.”
Having dedicated “about 4,000 hours’ work” on the mission, Villar told Patch that it “was time well spent.” Now that Curiosity has landed on Mars, he will be part of a team that decides “what we want the rover to do next.”