Column: From LAUSD scholar all the way in which to JPL and to Mars

You possibly can have seen the story regarding the Psyche mission, by which NASA is making able to launch a spacecraft that may journey to an asteroid searching for information which can unlock among the many mysteries of the universe.

Nevertheless I’m going to tell you the story of a novel journey. It’s about how Luis Dominguez, the son of immigrants from Mexico and Honduras, traveled from South Los Angeles to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the place he helped assemble the Psyche spacecraft.

Dominguez, 34, is the eldest of three boys born to Luis and Cecilia Dominguez. His dad is an auto mechanic, and Luis tagged alongside to his dad’s retailer when he could, pitching in at events. His mom was a housekeeper for a while, and as a boy, Dominguez went on jobs collectively together with her, too.

Dominguez, Strategies Engineer at JPL, labored on Mars missions and is in-charge of assembling, testing, and launching the Psyche spacecraft that’s shortly going to be launched to test an asteroid. Dominguez is seen at his childhood residence the place he used to frolicked planting timber and resolve fruits in Los Angeles , CA.

(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Situations)

His education began at Vermont Elementary in L.A. Unified, adopted by Audubon Heart School, the place, by his account, he wasn’t the best scholar throughout the establishing. Nevertheless when a seventh-grade classmate launched a e-book to class about flight, he knew what he wanted to do collectively along with his life.

“I was fascinated, and I discussed, ‘OK, I want to work on airplanes,’ ” Dominguez talked about. He went on to Westchester Extreme School, which had an aerospace magnet.

Dominguez instructed me he was up at 5 throughout the morning, and the bus journey to highschool took about an hour. Determining what he wanted to do collectively along with his life made him further centered, and his GPA shot up like a missile. On a campus career day, a visiting Cal State professor prompt him to ponder majoring in mechanical engineering at school moderately than aerospace, on account of it might give him further work selections.

And so he did — at Cal Poly Pomona. Dominguez lived at residence to avoid wasting money. He commuted to varsity every day, put in some hours at a consolation retailer and a sandwich retailer in his spare time, moreover labored as a gardener and helped out at his dad’s auto retailer in Inglewood.

“In my junior 12 months we had a career sincere and JPL was there, and really, I didn’t even know what JPL was. I was merely giving my resume to everybody,” talked about Dominguez, who had a 3.98 GPA on the time, and was buying for an internship. “I purchased a reputation once more pretty shortly and was like, who’s JPL? I appeared it up on the internet and thought, oh, that’s the NASA home coronary heart. That’s pretty cool.”

Throughout the fall of 2007, Dominguez was assigned as a part-time scholar intern to JPL engineer David Gruel, who led the workers assembling the Mars Science Laboratory for the Curiosity mission. Quite a few scholar interns are passive or introverted, Gruel talked about. Not Dominguez.

NASA systems engineer Luis Dominguez is a team leader working on the Psyche spacecraft

NASA packages engineer Luis Dominguez is a workers chief engaged on the Psyche spacecraft that may analysis a metallic rich asteroid located between Mars and Jupiter Dominguez is mirrored in foil overlaying the spacecraft.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Situations)

“Luis walked throughout the door and it was like, ‘Hey, what can I do? Hey, let me support you with that.’ You’d inform he was excited to be the place he was and wanted to contribute, and he was open and eager to doing irrespective of job we requested him to do,” Gruel talked about. “So his first JPL experience was seeing a rover being constructed, which was going to land on the ground of Mars.”

When the internship was carried out, and Dominguez graduated from Cal Poly Pomona, he had his coronary coronary heart set on a career at JPL. He remembers telling Gruel, “Merely lease me. I’ll mop the flooring. I’ll do one thing.”

Gruel had seen Dominguez evolve as an intern from small duties to doing tech help for Curiosity engineers.

“I could inform that Luis was going to be a catch and that JPL would undoubtedly revenue from bringing him on as a full-time engineer,” Gruel talked about.

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Dominguez went to JPL straight out of college and has been there since. He was deputy electrical integration and check out lead on the Mars Perseverance rover that launched in 2020. He’s now the lead electrical engineer on the Psyche satellite tv for pc television for laptop, overseeing a workers of 5, and he’ll be in Florida when Psyche launches in August from Cape Canaveral.

Dozens of engineers and help workers are on the Psyche workers. Primarily, Dominguez and his crew assemble the digital guts of the craft. They take components manufactured at JPL and everywhere in the world, string all of the items collectively and put it to the check out.

“In a nutshell, we assemble the spacecraft, we take it into an setting the place we shake it, we bake it, after which blow a bunch of extraordinarily pressurized air at it to create the acoustic setting you get all through launch,” talked about Dominguez.

Dominguez, at his childhood home where he used to spent time planting trees and pick fruits in Los Angeles

Dominguez, at his childhood residence the place he used to frolicked planting timber and resolve fruits in Los Angeles , CA.

(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Situations)

The craft will journey via home for years, scheduled to succeed in at its trip spot — an asteroid typically referred to as 16 Psyche — in 2026. Asteroid mining is taken under consideration a future probability, Dominguez talked about, nonetheless he’s further curious regarding the important aspect of the mission.

“The cool issue about it’s that it’s the biggest metallic asteroid we discover out about, and all data degree to the reality that it’s most likely the core of a failed planet,” talked about Dominguez. “We’ll get a higher understanding of what the core of Earth might appear as if, which is one factor we’ve under no circumstances been able to do.”

At JPL on Monday, Dominguez and others had been inserting the ending touches on the spacecraft. At media day, I bumped into Brian Bone, supervisor of the assembly, check out and launch operations unit.

“Luis has been a key participant,” Bone talked about. “I’ve seen few people put in as so much work whether or not or not you ask them to or not. He’s merely all in, and he’s on a regular basis excited to be proper right here.”

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Dominguez — who’s engaged to a woman he met years up to now after they every labored at a McDonald’s — will shortly switch with the JPL workers to Florida for the summer time season. He gave up the lease on his downtown L.A. residence and moved shortly into the brown stucco residence the place he spent plenty of his youth, throughout the neighborhood southwest of USC.

As soon as I visited him there, his mom and father had been away, visiting family in Mexico and Honduras, nonetheless I purchased to speak to them by phone.

He was on a regular basis a wise youngster, and he labored exhausting, talked about his mother, Cecilia.

“I under no circumstances had a doubt that he was going to make it,” talked about his father, who’s happy with all three sons. One amongst Luis’ youthful brothers is a physician assistant, and the alternative is a approved assistant intent on turning into a lawyer.

Dominguez instructed me that in his time at JPL, he’s developed one different passion.

“One among many points that almost all excites me is the possibility to do neighborhood outreach and focus on to kids regarding the stuff I do — notably kids who come from the place I obtained right here from,” he talked about.

Last fall, Dominguez was the featured motivational speaker in an cope with broadcast to varsity college students, college and workers throughout the Cal State system. The Cal Poly alum instructed his story from the chancellor’s office in Prolonged Seaside, noting the primary goal it took for him to develop right into a higher scholar in highschool. He credited his mom and father with displaying him the price of sacrifice and exhausting work.

“I under no circumstances thought I’d help put two 1-ton robots and a helicopter on Mars,” he instructed his viewers, calling himself a “first-generation college scholar and a proud teen of immigrants.”

His advice to every scholar was to shoot extreme, take risks, be unafraid to fail, and to dwell life with “braveness, curiosity, tenacity and a healthful dose of altruism, on account of these are the tenets that purchased me the place I’m as we communicate.”

Dominguez — named in 2017 by CNET en Español as certainly one of many 20 most influential Latinos in experience — closed with this:

“Just like the universe, every human being is full of infinite capabilities and infinite prospects, with genius, no matter their background, no matter their ZIP Code, no matter their financial circumstance. It’s incumbent upon us as leaders to hunt out that genius, to stoke it and let it shine, on account of on the end of the day, genius is everywhere.”

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