John Daniel “Danny” Olivas became the first U.S.-born man of Mexican descent to travel to space. (Rodolfo Neri Vela, who was part of a NASA Space Shuttle mission in 1985, had been born in Mexico; Ellen Ochoa, whose first spaceflight took place in 1993, was the first U.S.-born person of Mexican descent to make it into outer space.)
Olivas was born in North Hollywood, California, in 1965. He received a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at El Paso in 1989, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Houston in 1993, and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and materials science from Rice University in 1996.
Olivas developed a strong enthusiasm for space travel early on in life after he and his family visited the Johnson Space Center in Houston during a vacation. In 1998, he was accepted into NASA’s astronaut candidate program. Prior to flying into space, Olivas was an aquanaut for NEEMO (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations) missions in the Aquarius underwater laboratory located several miles off the coast of Florida. This laboratory, which has the distinction of being the world’s only undersea research station, is used to help prepare individuals for space exploration.
In 2007, Olivas made his inaugural space flight as part of the seven-person crew of the STS-117 mission on board Space Shuttle Atlantis. This was the 250th orbital spaceflight, and Olivas made two spacewalks during the mission. Olivas’ other spaceflight occurred in 2009, when he was part of the seven-person crew of the STS-128 mission on board Space Shuttle Discovery. During this mission, Olivas made a total of three spacewalks. The cumulative time he logged for spacewalks during both missions was 34 hours and 28 minutes.
For more information about John Daniel “Danny” Olivas, please check out https://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/olivas.html.