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Monday, October 2, 2023


Alumnus heading to space

For John ‘Danny’ Olivas, the sky is not the limit. The UH alumnus works for NASA as a mission specialist for the STS-128 Discovery project. The shuttle is scheduled to launch Friday from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. after failed attempts Tuesday and Wednesday.

According to his biography on the NASA Web site, Olivas was born in North Hollywood, Calif. in 1966, and later moved to El Paso, where he attended the University of Texas-El Paso. Olivas knew he wanted to work in space long before the move.

‘Olivas knew at the age of 7 that he wanted to be an astronaut immediately after a visit to the Johnson Space Center,’ NASA communication officer Katherine Trinidad said.

Olivas moved to Houston in 1989 and pursued a Master of Science in mechanical engineering from UH while working for Dow Chemical in Freeport as a mechanical/materials engineer.

After graduating with his master’s, he pursued a doctorate in mechanical engineering and materials science from Rice University.

Before NASA selected him in 1998, Olivas worked as a senior research engineer for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

This will be Olivas’ second space flight. The mission will consist of three spacewalks to reinstate an ammonia storage tank outside the Columbus Laboratory.

‘The STS-128 mission will focus on delivering equipment and providing more research facilities to support the six people living in the Columbus Laboratory,’ NASA public affairs officer Kylie Clem said.

The mission also includes the installment of a treadmill in the laboratory.

‘A new treadmill will also be installed in the laboratory called the Colbert treadmill, named after the entertainer Stephen Colbert,’ said Allard Beutel, news chief in media services for external relations at Kennedy Space Center.

Olivas will be one of seven crewmembers on the mission, but the only one to participate in all three spacewalks, Beutel said.

Discovery is the first flight mission with two Hispanic members, including Olivas.

Olivas could not be reached for comment because he was training for the mission.

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