Out of this world

UND space engineer takes the spotlight at Smithsonian, shows up in centerfold of November issue of National Geographic magazine

Pablo de León and Tiffany Swarmer

UND Space Studies Associate Professor Pablo de León looks on as former UND grad student Tiffany Swarmer, wearing one of his latest versions of the UND NDX space suit system, manipulates a camera. Photo by Jackie Lorentz.

UND’s own Pablo de León is reaching new heights in publicity with his expertise in interplanetary travel and what to wear when you’re doing it.

Cover of November issue of National Geographic magazine, now on newsstands

Cover of November 2016 issue of National Geographic magazine, now on newsstands. Photo credit National Geographic.

On Oct. 8, de León, an associate professor of space studies at UND, was a featured guest at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., where he took time to display and answer questions about the latest version of his NDX-1 spacesuit, which was designed and constructed at UND.

De León was invited as part of the Smithsonian Latino Center’s ¡Descubra! Meet the Science Expert Series in connection with Hispanic Heritage Month: Innovators in Aviation and Space Heritage Family Day at the world-famous museum.

“It was a very interesting day for me and certainly a lot of fun to be part of,” de León said.

Amy Stamm, with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, visited with de León during his visit to Washington, D.C., and asked him some questions about his work. Check it out here.

UND has long been an innovative leader in the study of space and its impacts on life on Earth through the Department of Space Studies, part of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences.

If all that wasn’t enough, de León is featured in the latest edition of National Geographic, now on newsstands. The November 2016 issue is titled “Race To The Red Planet.” The issue’s cover story: Mars: Inside the High-Risk, High-Stakes Race to the Red Plane – If the trip doesn’t kill you, living their might includes a centerspread photo of de León testing a prototype of his space suit in the “regolith bin” at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Pablo de León, National Geographic.

In this centerspread photo taken from the latest issue of National Geographic magazine, photographer Phillip Toledano captures UND Space Studies Associate Professor Pablo de León wearing the space suit he designed and constructed at UND in the “regolith chamber” at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. © Phillip Toledano/National Geographic.

The photo captions identifies de León as a UND space engineer who uses the chamber‘s fine soil and fans to simulate the dust storms that could bedevil astronauts on Mars.

A native of Argentina, de León has been with UND for 12 years, first as a research associate and starting in 2013 as associate professor. He holds degrees in aerospace engineering and a Ph.D. in the history of science and technology. He’s the project manager of UND’s NDX-1 Space Suit Program, a moon-suit version called the NDX-2 Lunar Suit Prototype, as well as UND’s Inflatable Lunar/Mars Habitat, which would allow space travelers to live and work for extended periods on the moon and Mars.

De León also is director of the Human Spaceflight Laboratory at UND, and he’s the chief scientist for a NASA grant program that will study the possibility of a “Multi-Purpose Research Station in North Dakota in Support of NASA´s Future Human Missions to Mars.”