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UND professor is NASA’s featured researcher for Hispanic Heritage Month

Space Studies Chair Pablo de León specializes in designing spacesuits and space habitats, which astronauts might use on the Moon or Mars  

UND Space Studies Professor and Chair Pablo de León, a native of Argentina, was notified last week by a video producer at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., that videos and social media clips that NASA has done on De León over the years, will be featured content on the space administration’s media channels during Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15). (Above) De Leon is pictured with  his NDX-1 suit, the first suit he built at UND. UND archival image.

UND Space Studies Chair Pablo de Leon, a native of Argentina, is being honored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration — NASA — during Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs Sept. 15-Oct. 15.

Dr. De León was notified rcently by a video producer at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., that several videos and social media productions that NASA has done on De Leon over the years will be featured content on the space administration’s media channels during the monthlong observance. Then last Friday, De Leon received another call from NASA to inform him that his story was being featured on space administration’s main Web page.

“It is sincerely a big honor for me to have my work displayed by NASA, an organization I admire so much, and that was so important in my career,” De Leon said. “The fact that we can connect NASA with UND here in North Dakota, creating state of the art research relevant to the future of humankind in space, is one of my biggest prides.”

Here’s a sampling of the media clips featuring De León that NASA is promoting this month:

Pablo on NASA.gov

Pablo on NASA’s YouTube

Pablo on NASA’s Facebook

Pablo on NASA’s Twitter

Pablo on NASA’s Instagram

De León has devoted three decades to space and space engineering research, both in Argentina and the United States. He is currently a Professor of Space Studies as well as Department Chair in Space Studies at UND. He has specialized in human spaceflight, extravehicular activities (EVA), spacesuit design and surface planetary exploration and habitability.

De León also acted as a principal investigator and Science Investigator in several NASA-funded programs over the years.

In 2019, members of the first international mission in UND’s Inflatable Mars/Lunar Habitat pose for a photo in their NASA blue uniforms and holding their respective nations’ flags.  From left are Atila Meszaros, Peru; David Mateus, Columbia; Marcos Bruno, Argentina; and Danton Basaldua, Mexico. UND Space Studies Professor and Chair Pablo de Leon is shown on the far left with Bruno, helping to hold the flag of their native Argentina. Photo by Patrick C. Miller/UND Today.

Campus connections

While at UND, De León has worked on a number of iterations of fabrics and fully operational modern-day spacesuits that have caught the attention and the imagination of space agencies around the world. His team at UND also continue to push the envelope of scientific research in space exploration and habitability with his innovative Inflatable Lunar/Mars Habitat (ILMH), set in a field near the UND campus.

“Now, we are working to create a joint research laboratory, so in the future we will be more involved with NASA than ever before. This will create lots of new opportunities to our students.

In 2019, De León’s ILMH boasted its first international mission. That’s when four students — from Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Peru — entered the facility for two weeks of running NASA experiments for future exploration on the moon and Mars.

“Regarding encouraging Hispanics to become interested in STEM, I hope they can see that it is possible to achieve the dream of working on what you are truly passionate about,” De León said.

At UND’s NASA-funded Inflatable Mars/Lunar Habitat in 2020, former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine (center) and U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer (right) are greeted by a student wearing a spacesuit designed by Pablo DeLeon (left), UND Space Studies professor and chair and head of the UND Human Spaceflight Laboratory. Photo by Patrick C. Miller/UND Today.

Space innovator

De León’s portfolio of work for NASA includes a stint as the Space Shuttle payload manager and general designer. Before that, he worked with the Space Shuttle as payload manager and general designer for a package of seven science experiments that flew on a 12-day mission to the International Space Station in 2001. He also was the Integration and Payload Manager on the Pehuensat-1 educational satellite, launched from India in the PSLV-C7 rocket in 2007.

He also has served as a chief designer and fabrications manager for several underwater-simulation, EVA analog, pressure-suit systems, including the first privately-built launch-and-entry space suit, known as the “DL/H-1.”

De León has flown as a payload specialist in NASA’s KC-135 aircraft for more than 80 weightless parabolas, carrying four Zero-G fluid dynamics experiments.

De León has written several books about various space projects and space history, founded a magazine dedicated to space exploration, and was editor-in-chief of the Latin-American Journal of Space Science and Technology. He also has participated in more than 50 technical papers on space engineering and life support systems presented at international congresses. He belongs to a number of professional aerospace engineering societies and is a founding member of the Space Generation Advisory Council.