Have you met...George Salazar?

 George Salazar is a NASA Human-Computer Interface Technical Discipline Lead engineer

 He holds an undergrad degree in electrical engineering and a master's in systems engineer, he didn’t consider himself a brilliant student. Worked as an electronic technician and interned at a seismic exploration company that helped him land a job at NASA. Despite being trained in electronics and systems engineering, he continued to learn all he could about space travel. He became interested in the human element in engineering (human systems integration). While pursuing his bachelor's in electrical engineering, he applied for an internship at NASA and got declined  He shares his journey to NASA as life not being a  straight line. Through perseverance and hard work, George Salazar has now a leadership position in his field.

How is the daily life at NASA?

Daily life at NASA demands both hard skills and soft skills. The hard skills in terms of technical skills are important but so are soft skills. You need soft skills of leadership, team building, and negotiation. What I do in technical terms is related to the commercial crew program, SpaceX, and the Moon project. In the commercial crew program, I mostly deal with certification of software and hardware for the SpaceX missions. Regarding the moon program, I am educating potential vendors about the space environment such as the radiation environment. I am also involved with the safety of the commercial crew making sure interfaces between different subsystems are designed to handle hazards.


Which are the skills you search for in your team?

I value team inputs-expertise and opinions (recommendations). At NASA, people need to be critical thinkers. Their observations should be objective and they should challenge opinions and ideas. for NASA, you need to be good at asking questions.


What are the key characteristics of a leader in the space industry?

A leader needs to help you do your job. They have to provide you the right tools and support and also clear the way so the job is done.  A leader needs to build the team in the way that it works and that the problems can be solved with team effort.  At NASA, we praise teamwork, regardless of the project. A leader needs to give credit to the ones that “go the extra mile”.

A leader needs to listen to every opinion, point of view and come up with a consensus that works and stimulates team spirit.


What will be the greatest breakthrough in space in the next decade and what breakthrough do you hope will be achieved still in our life-time?

I think it will be a manned mission to Mars which will at least orbit around Mars, if not landing. For this to be possible we will have to solve a lot of issues first. Graphics processing is a major challenge for preparation to go to Mars as well as radiation protection. Graphics processing is critical for the display of information to the crew as well as providing applications to help keep the crew psychologically healthy such as games. Personally, I will also be very happy when we've accomplished the task of living off the land such as converting Moon soil into water and oxygen as well as filtering the soil so that astronauts can grow plants.


Your passion is sharing knowledge with students (through speaking engagements, tutoring, and mentoring). When does this passion arise and why?

I didn’t like to speak in public and give presentations, so I asked other people that did presentations really well for advice. Someone suggested that I start giving presentations in schools and train my communication skills with students first. And I followed the advice and ended up really enjoying speaking to a younger crowd. And I see two benefits in it: 1) students get to know NASA better and 2) they have a chance to understand better what I personally had a tough time understanding when I was a student myself.


What is your advice for young scientists hoping to pursue a career in the space sector?

My advice comes from my experience. It’s not necessarily important how smart you are. It’s more important what you do with the knowledge you acquire and then what you do with it. It’s a matter of taking what you learn and improve and become a better professional. Never stop learning.  Finally, perseverance and dedication are the key. One only fails when one stops trying, Know who the experts are and ask them questions. That will go a long way in helping you become a better engineer.

Interested in a space-related career? Let us know in the comments!