Astronaut Danny Olivas Slated to speak to Area Students

Astronaut Danny Olivas Slated to Speak to Area Students
Posted on 02/19/2018
Astronaut Danny Olivas

Astronaut John “Danny” Olivas, Ph.D., P.E., an El Paso native, will be the guest speaker for the Alamogordo Downlink Project on Wednesday, February 21, at Alamogordo High School’s Tiger Pit. Olivas will speak to more than 1200 middle school and high school students that morning, talking about his experiences as an astronaut aboard the International Space Station.

During the Alamogordo Downlink Project, teams from six area schools will have the opportunity to speak directly to Astronaut Scott Tingle, aboard the International Space Station. Museum of Space History Education Staff have been working closely with the teams and their teachers on designing and building a small payload similar to experiments that could have been carried aboard the ISS. The students have based their questions for Tingle on what they’ve learned during the project. Schools participating in the downlink include Alamogordo High School, Academy del Sol, Chaparral, Mountain View, and Holloman Middle Schools, and the New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. There will be a total of six teams, one from each school. This event marks the first time a New Mexico K-12 school system has been involved in an ISS downlink.

The downlink is expected to take place at 9:00 am on February 21. Students will be gathered in Tiger Pit for the event, however because of limited seating, parents and the public are invited to watch the downlink at the Flickinger Center. Seating there will be on a first come first served basis. Olivas is expected to speak to Alamogordo students at approximately 9:25. He’ll also take team photos with the students and present them with an autographed event participation certificate.

“It’s very exciting for me to attend an event like this,” said Olivas, who will be flying in from California especially to attend. “It is a great opportunity to help inspire these students to achieve their dreams and I feel privileged to be part of it.” His wife, Marie Schwartkopf-Olivas, was recently voted in as a board member for the International Space Hall of Fame Foundation, the support organization for the Museum of Space History. Olivas accepted the position of Astronaut Advisor for the organization.  

Olivas, who flew aboard STS-117 Atlantis in 2007 and STS-128 Discovery in 2009, was selected to be an astronaut by NASA in 1998. He has a cumulative total of over 668 hours in space and more than 34 EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity) hours. He performed the first ever on-orbit EVA repair to the Space Shuttle Atlantis during his mission to the space station in 2007.

For more information about Astronaut John "Danny" Olivas, including his award-winning children's book Endeavor's Long Journey, available in English and Spanish versions, please visit or #WeBelieveInAstronauts

The New Mexico Museum of Space History, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is a division of the NM Department of Cultural Affairs. For more information, call 575-437-2840 or toll free 1-877-333-6589 or visit the website at Like us at:

About Danny Olivas, NASA bio:


Astronaut, Mission Assurance Expert, Director of Space Initiatives, Author, Forensic Engineer

PERSONAL DATA: Born in North Hollywood, California, 1966, and raised in El Paso, Texas. Married to the former Marie Schwarzkopf, also from El Paso, Texas. They have 5 children. Recreational interests include running, weightlifting, hunting, fishing and surfing.

EDUCATION: Graduate of Burges High School, El Paso, Texas; received a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas-El Paso; a master’s of science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Houston and a doctorate in mechanical engineering and materials science from Rice University.

AWARDS: Six U.S. Patents; Four NASA Class One Tech Brief Awards; Five JPL-California Institute of Technology Novel Technology Recognitions; The University of Texas-El Paso Distinguished Alumnus, HENAAC Most Promising Engineer, McDonald’s Hispanos Triunfadores Life Time Achievement Award, NASA ASEE Summer Faculty Fellowship Award, Dow Life Saving Award.

EXPERIENCE: After graduating with his undergraduate degree, Olivas worked for the Dow Chemical Company as a mechanical/materials engineer responsible for performing equipment stress/failure analysis for the operating facilities. Upon completing his master's degree, Olivas pursued his doctorate while supporting engine coating evaluations for C-5 maintenance operations at Kelly Air Force Base. He also supported the Crew and Thermal Systems Directorate at NASA Johnson Space Center, evaluating materials for application to the next generation space suits.

Upon completing his doctorate, he received a senior research engineer position at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and worked in the development of tools and methodologies for nondestructively evaluating microelectronics and structural materials subjected to space environments. He was promoted to Program Manager of the JPL Advanced Interconnect and Manufacturing Assurance Program, aimed at evaluating the reliability and susceptibility of state-of-the-art microelectronics for use in future NASA projects. Throughout his career, he has authored and presented numerous papers at technical conferences and in scientific journals.

NASA EXPERIENCE: NASA selected Olivas in 1998. Astronaut Training included orientation briefings and tours, numerous scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in Shuttle and International Space Station systems, physiological training and ground school to prepare for T-38 flight training, as well as learning water and wilderness survival techniques. From 1999 to 2002, he was assigned technical responsibilities within the Robotics Branch as lead for the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator Robot and the Mobile Transporter. From 2002 to 2005 he was assigned to the EVA Branch and supported the research effort focused on developing materials, tools and techniques to perform on-orbit shuttle repair. In 2006, he served as lead of the Hardware Integration Section of the Space Station Branch, responsible for ensuring proper configuration and integration of future station modules and visiting vehicles. In 2007 he flew on STS-117 logging 336 hours in space including over 14 EVA hours. In 2008 he was assigned to the Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) Branch that is responsible for all interface with the flight control team at Mission Control in Houston and the on-orbit STS and ISS crews. In 2009 he served aboard STS-128 and has a cumulative total of over 668 hours in space and over 34 EVA hours. Olivas retired from NASA on May 25, 2010.

SPACE FLIGHT EXPERIENCE: STS-117 Atlantis (June 8-22, 2007) was the 117th Shuttle mission and the 21st mission to visit the International Space Station, delivering the second starboard truss segment, the third set of U.S. solar arrays, batteries and associated equipment. The mission also entailed the first ever on-orbit EVA repair to the Space Shuttle, Atlantis. During two spacewalks, Olivas accumulated 14 hours and 13 mins of EVA experience. The mission also delivered and returned with an expedition crew member. STS-117 returned to land at Edwards Air Force Base, California, having traveled more than 5.8 million miles in 13-day, 20 hours and 20 minutes.

STS-128 Discovery (August 28 to September 11, 2009) was the 128th Shuttle mission and the 30th mission to the International Space Station. While at the orbital outpost, the STS-128 crew rotated an expedition crewmember, attached the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM), and transferred over 18,000 pounds of supplies and equipment to the station. During three spacewalks, Olivas accumulated 20 hours and 15 mins of EVA experience. The STS-128 mission was accomplished in 217 orbits of the Earth, traveling over 5.7 million miles in 332 hours and 53 minutes and returned to land at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

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