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Latino breaks down barriers to reach NASA and send a robot to Mars

by drbyos


San Juan, Apr 8 (EFE) .- Elio Morillo, NASA’s “Perseverance” explorer operations engineer, born in Ecuador but feels Puerto Rican, knows well the meaning of perseverance for all the work done until he managed to participate in the Ingenuity helicopter project, which will make its first flight on Mars next Sunday.

His determination will be demonstrated when, together with a group of NASA professionals, he launches the helicopter on Mars, the first device of its kind to travel outside of Earth.

That “little jump”, as Morillo described, will only be between 3 and 5 meters high, “to verify that we can fly on Mars.”


“It is always one challenge after another, but always in the fight. That has been the great lesson of my life. ‘Perseverance’ is the definition of my life, to put it simpler, ”said Morillo.

According to him, “it was by chance in life” that he lived on the island, whose “educational, cultural and training” level led him to consider himself Puerto Rican.

Morillo spent the first six years of his life in Ecuador, but due to the economic and social crisis, which left his mother, a teacher by profession, without a job, they decided to move to the island, where his older brother already resided.


He went specifically to Caguas, a municipality near San Juan, where Morillo and his mother relocated, in a residence that did not have cable television or internet.

Morillo was enrolled in the Luis Cartagena Nieves School, currently closed, while his mother went back to teaching in the classrooms.

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“There I had some teachers who always made up everything. They always supported us in math and science competitions. It was very formative, ”he recalled.

After several years in public school, he was awarded a scholarship to the private school Notre Dame, also in Caguas.

His mother being an educator, education was a priority at home.


Due to financial problems, the young man and his mother moved to New York, where they had to deal with the English barrier.

The process for Morillo to get enrolled in a New York school was more difficult than they thought, something almost as complicated as being accepted into a university.

According to Morillo, already at that time science and technology caught his attention.

This is how the young student was accepted into the New Explorations into Science, Technology & Math School.

“At that time, the school was not specialized, but over the years it has become one of the best in Manhattan. Now you have to take an exam to enter, ”he said.

The young man continued to excel academically, so upon graduation from high school and while waiting to be admitted to a university, he was accepted into a summer program at the University of Michigan.


Finally, in Michigan she obtained a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, a degree in electrical engineering, and a master’s degree in space systems engineering and design

“There the doors to the aerospace world opened for me, with companies in the United States,” he explained.

These jobs include designing aircraft turbines, and in secret projects of the Department of Defense, until he is finally hired to work in the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, an entity that on July 30 managed to take off the Rover Perseverance towards Mars in search of traces of ancient life.

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There, specifically in 2016, they integrated him into the mission to the red planet.

“Right now I am involved in this mission and from there a lot of opportunities open up in the space aspect,” he stressed, after underlining that the space economy is growing very rapidly.

Jorge J. Muñiz Ortiz


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