Software developer

NASA software developer working on Project Artemis hails from Laredo

While one local is set to be sent to the moon posthumously via a major NASA project, another Laredoan native is currently working on the software to make launching such a project a reality.

Daniel E. Ramirez is a senior technical specialist in professional software engineering at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration who has worked on the software side to help various space shuttles get off the ground.

He is currently working on Project Artemis I, which will help honor NASA legend Arturo Campos – whose moonikin will fly to the moon as part of Project Artemis – who helped save the crew of Apollo 13.

Ramirez’s work on the Artemis program focuses on the software engineer simulator element where they formulate models of how a flight will unfold and the factors that can affect it. He is currently working with the Compass simulator, which is also expected to become the main type of simulator used in subsequent Artemis missions.

“These are not the type of simulators that astronauts train in or anything like that, but they are used to design the trajectory of the shuttle depending on the weight of the payload, the day they are taking place and that sort of thing. They did that for a long time until the shuttle program ended really,” Ramirez said. “Over the past few years I’ve been working on a new simulator called Compass, and it’s a joint venture.”

He said on the launch day of the Artemis mission carrying the Campos moonikin, the simulator will help measure launch day activities such as measuring the wind, temperature and environment of that day. The simulator will perform the runs and have a better idea of ​​whether it can run safely or not.

Ramirez says the first launch is scheduled for approximately the end of August. He said NASA just launched the first dress rehearsal a few days ago and everything went according to plan, so everything points to the actual launch taking place that day. However, he understands that delays may occur as the launch of the project has experienced several delays over the past few months as simulators and engineers continue to work on the project itself. He said the delays on such a big project were nothing out of the ordinary.

“I think starting with this first Artemis mission, and then all the following ones, they are going to run the Compass simulation for each of the missions,” Ramirez said. “It’s an exciting time now (because we’re going to) be able to (be) able to actually see (how) what we’ve developed over the last few years (will be used) for (this) mission…so that’s going to be exciting.”

He said that while the first Artemis mission will be unmanned, all others will have astronauts on board.

“It’s really something special, because when I started, my brother was talking about seeing the first moon landing. He’s older than me, so he could see it. When I was a kid, it was all about the space shuttle, and so I was able to get into that type of space shuttle, which was great, because I was able to support a lot of missions,” Ramirez said. . “So this is all pretty exciting because the first mission will be unmanned but the others will have astronauts on it, so it’s a throwback to NASA launching American astronauts from American soil with a vision of going back to the moon. and its lunar surface.”

Ramirez said he’s extremely excited that another Laredoan will posthumously lead the first Artemis mission.

“I think it shows the people of Laredo are capable of anything,” Ramirez said. “There is something that we can share our talents with the country and the rest of the world with missions like these, and it was really exciting to hear that there was this connection with Laredo and a certain recognition of past work that had gone into the program stemming from Laredo.

He’s also excited about the launch, as it will be the first in years. And he hopes everyone involved in the process will come together to watch.

“For the Artemis launches, yeah, we’re pretty much going to get together somewhere to watch it launch,” he said. “I had the privilege of witnessing two shuttle launches in person. …. For the Artemis missions, I’m sure we’ll all come together like before and watch it and everyone say their prayers and make sure everything goes as it should. Someone once said that these rockets fly not only because of physics and chemistry, but also because of the thoughts, prayers and energy of all the people who worked there and who wanted they fly off into space.

As a native of Laredoan, Ramirez said he always ends up returning to his hometown and visiting friends and family. And he still enjoys delicious food from the city he loves, as he said he’s glad there’s now a Taco Palenque in Houston because he’s a big fan of the Laredo restaurant chain. Even though he says the Taco Palenque in Houston is a bit far from where he lives, whenever he’s on the freeway and can get there, he definitely heads in that direction but remembers ” how Laredo’s food” tastes different and better.

Ramirez was born at Mercy Hospital in Laredo. His mother was a second-grade teacher and an artist who painted, while his father was an accountant and businessman.

Ramirez went to Ryan Elementary School and Lamar Middle School before graduating from JW Nixon High School in 1990. He even attended a year at Laredo College, formerly known as Laredo Junior College, in the part of the specialized program where he met his wife, Cristina Doda Cardenas Ramirez. .

After transferring from LC, Ramirez went to College Station to attend Texas A&M where he earned his computer engineering degree. He then earned his master’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Houston-Clear Lake.

His wife says his and her success as professionals has a lot to do with their upbringing in Laredo.

“I believe part of the reason for our success as professionals is due to our parents, our families and our friends and where we were born and raised,” Cardenas said. “Laredo is a very special place. Our hometown has provided us with great Mexican American role models at every professional level. Our hometown has taught us to do things in more than one way – the American, Mexican and Laredo way. .

“We were taught to consider Nuevo Laredo as our family of sister cities. The Rio Grande is a shared resource, and so what happens to us on either side of the river affects both of our countries. Street names in Laredo were deliberately named in the alternating order of American and Mexican rulers, hence the coexistence of Zaragoza and Washington streets.Our Catholic upbringing always taught us to do everything with love and to serve our community.The warmth of Laredo taught us to endure any adversity we encounter on a daily basis. Without Laredo, our success in Houston would not have been possible. We are proud of Laredo.

While studying for his master’s degree, he eventually found employment in the computer software industry with a company that had a government contract working with NASA space shuttles in the mid-1990s. later he continues to work in this industry and with digital simulators for mission planning, which has included work in various space shuttles in the past and also the current Artemis scheduled for launch in August.

Ramirez is also very proud to be from Gateway City, as he said growing up with two cultures and two languages ​​made it much easier for him to learn the third language of the profession: computers. He said he worked with computer languages ​​just as he translated between Spanish and English. As a child, he felt the same when learning computer language.

Ramirez has also been recognized over time for his work with NASA, such as winning an award in the year 2000 after discovering how data from a post-flight reconstruction showed inconsistencies such as seeing in the simulator that some of the data “was different from what I was seeing.” He then observed that some of the data patterns contained the wrong units, such as the data reporting radiants instead of degrees for angles or miles instead of kilometers, which all of this data could have affected flights and after reporting it to his supervisor and their superiors, he was recognized for his work.

Ramirez used the same post-flight construction data to track what happened with the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster on February 1, 2003, and although his simulation didn’t find what was wrong with the tragedy, they were able to determine some of the aspects. who contributed to the disaster and why things went wrong. He said that by entering the data, they were able to see the data behind the theft and what the data ultimately reported on the day of the tragedy.

“He didn’t necessarily find the cause, but what he did do was rule out other possible causes,” Ramirez said. “When you have an accident at NASA it generates what you call a fault tree. So you look at everything that could have gone wrong and you have to find them all, and going through all of that you look at what could have gone wrong could be possible false leads which now show that it is not a problem with computers.”

Although Ramirez and his team received no awards for determining what was wrong with the shuttle, he said it also helped the technology for all future flights. He said at the time of the tragedy he felt he finally “he could do something” instead of just waiting and watching like he did during the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in the 1980s in as a college student.

Ramirez also earned other accolades for his work in global placement systems projects when it came to introducing them to shuttles for the first time. However, he said, without his education in Laredo, none of this would have been possible. He hopes other Laredo residents see that they can’t just get out of town or even out of the country to work and make a name for themselves, but also out of this world.

“Laredo people can do anything, because there’s a certain pride that comes with being from Laredo that I think is really unique,” he said. “Just because of the strong environment you grow up in, strong family ties, and culture helps prepare you for the world.

“The heat and pressure prepare you for a very stressful job. It’s a really good place to live, and some people don’t know what Laredo is and what it’s all about. Being from Laredo is actually very advantageous if you’re heading into a STEM field or something like computer programming.