Fil-Am helps in safe Perseverance landing

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star
Fil-Am helps in safe Perseverance landing
Photo provided by the US embassy shows Filipino-American Gregorio Villar III, an engineer at NASA and part of the Mars 2020 mission that successfully launched Perseverance.
US embassy

MANILA, Philippines — A Filipino-American engineer has played a crucial role in the successful landing of NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars, the US embassy in Manila said on Friday.

Gregorio Villar III, 33, was tasked to oversee the successful entry, descent and landing of Perseverance on Mars.

“As we celebrate the successful landing of NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars, DidYouKnow that Fil-Am engineer Gregorio Villar III helped with its safe landing as the Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) Systems Engineer of the Mars 2020 Mission?” the US embassy said in a post on Twitter.

The NASA Perseverance rover safely landed on Mars at 3:55 p.m. Thursday (Eastern Time), after its 292.5 million-mile journey, the agency confirmed. The rover landed itself flawlessly, according to the mission’s team.

Percy, as the spacecraft is called at mission control, sent back its first images of the landing site immediately after touchdown, which showed the rover’s shadow on the surface of its landing site of Jezero Crater, CNN reported.

Villar was born in the US to Filipino parents.

He received a NASA scholarship during his junior year at the California State Polytechnic University.

He had his internship at a jet propulsion laboratory (JPL) then spent two years doing research in astrophysics.

He obtained his masters in Astronautical Engineering at University of Southern California.

“I started interning at JPL in 2010 and got hired full-time in 2012,” he said in his profile. He said his childhood dream was to become an astronaut.

In an interview with Teleradyo yesterday, Villar credited his NASA journey to his high school education in the Philippines.

“I thank part of my education in the Philippines for that. I studied so much in the Philippines, my foundation in math and physics because of my teachers there in high school,” he said.

Villar studied at the Saint Louis University Laboratory High School in Baguio City. He said he was not the only Filipino who worked on the historic mission.

“There are other Filipinos who worked on Perseverance as well. Not just me,” Villar said.

When asked for his advice to students interested in a similar career, Villar said: “Although it is a cliché, it is very important to pursue something you love. I have worked at JPL for over 12 years, and there is rarely a day that I feel like I am going to work.” – Janvic Mateo



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