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NASA software developer working on Artemis Project is from Laredo

As one local is about to be sent to the moon posthumously via a major NASA project, another native Laredoan is actually working on the software to make the launch of such project a reality.

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

He is currently working on the Artemis I Project, which will help honor NASA legend Arturo Campos — whose moonikin will be flying to the moon in the Artemis Project — 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 go and what factors can affect it. He is currently working with the Compass simulator, which is expected to become the main type of simulator used in subsequent Artemis missions as well.

“They are not the type of simulators in which the astronauts sit in the training or anything like that, but they are used to design the trajectory of the shuttle depending on how heavy the payload was going to be, what day they are going on and on. that type of thing. They did that for a long time until the end of the shuttle program really,” Ramirez said. “In the last few years, I have been working on a new simulator called Compass, and it’s a joint venture.”

He said the launch day of the Artemis mission carrying Campos’ moonikin, the simulator will help measure day-of-launch activities like the measurement of the wind and the temperature and the environment of that day. The simulator will do the runs and have a better idea of ​​whether they can safely launch or not.

Ramirez says the first launch is scheduled approximately for the end of August. He said NASA just did the first dress rehearsal launch a few days ago and everything went as scheduled, so everything is pointing to the actual launch occurring on that day. However, he understands delays may happen as the project launch has seen several delays in the past few months, as simulators and engineers continue working on the project itself. He said delays on such a big project are nothing out of the ordinary.

“I believe that starting with that first Artemis mission and then all of the subsequent ones, they are going to be running the Compass simulation for each of the missions,” Ramirez said. “It is an exciting time now (as we are) going to be (able) to actually see (how) what we have developed over the past few years (will be used) for (this) mission… so it will be exciting. ”

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

“It’s really something special, as when I got started, my brother used to talk about seeing the first moon landing. He is older than me, so he was able to see that. By the time I was a kid, it was all about the space shuttle, and so I was able to kind of get in that space shuttle type of things which was great, as 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 them, so it is a return to NASA launching American astronauts from American soil with the vision of returning to the moon and its lunar surface.”

Ramirez said he is extremely excited about the fact a fellow Laredoan will posthumously lead the first Artemis mission.

“I think it goes to show that Laredoans 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 that Laredo connection and some acknowledgment of past work that had gone in the program stemming from Laredo.”

He is also excited about the launch, as it will be the first in years. And he hopes all the employees involved in the process get together to watch.

“For the Artemis launches, yes, we are pretty much going to get together somewhere to watch it launch,” he said. “I had the privilege of seeing two shuttle launches in person. …. For the Artemis missions, I am sure that we will all get together like before and watch it and everybody say their prayers and make sure that everything happens as it should. Somebody once said that these rockets don’t just fly because of the physics and the chemistry but also because of the thoughts, prayers and the energy of all the people that work on it willing it to fly off into space.”

As a native Laredoan, Ramirez said he does end up always going back to his hometown and visiting his friends and family. And he always enjoys the delicious food from the city he loves, as he said he is glad there is now a Taco Palenque in Houston, as he is a big fan of the Laredo chain restaurant. Even though he says the Taco Palenque in Houston is a bit away from his residence, every time he is on the highway and can get there, he certainly heads that way but reminisces “how the food of Laredo” just tastes different and better .

Ramirez was born at Laredo’s Mercy Hospital. His mother was a second-grade teacher and an artist who painted, while his father was a bookkeeper and a 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 honors 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 obtained his degree in computer engineering. He later got his master’s in computer engineering at the University of Houston-Clear Lake.

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

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

“We were taught to think of Nuevo Laredo as our sister city family. The Rio Grande is a shared resource, and so what happens to us on either side of the river affects both of our countries. The names of the streets in Laredo purposefully were named in alternating order of American and Mexican leaders, hence Zaragoza and Washington streets co-exist.Our Catholic upbringing always taught us to do everything with love and to serve our community.The Laredo heat taught us how to endure any adversity we faced on a daily basis. Without Laredo, our success in Houston would not have been possible. We are Laredo proud.”

As he was studying for his master’s, he ended up finding a job in the computer software industry with a company that had a government contract working with the space shuttles at NASA in the mid-1990s. Twenty-five years later, he continues working in such industry and with numerical 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 of being from the 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 profession: computers. He said he works with computer languages ​​just as he translated between Spanish and English, as a child he felt the same way when learning computer language.

Ramirez has also been recognized over time for his work with NASA, such as getting an award in the year 2000 after he found out 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 used to be seeing.” He then observed some of the data models had the wrong units in them, such as the fact the data was reporting radiants instead of degrees for angles or miles instead of kilometers, which all of this data could have affected the flights and after reporting it to his supervisor and their higher-ups 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 Feb. 1, 2003, and although his simulation did not find what actually went wrong with the tragedy, they were able to determine some of the aspects that contributed to the disaster and why things went wrong. He said by inputting the data they were able to see the data behind the flight and what eventually the data reported back on the day of the tragedy.

“It didn’t necessarily find the cause, but what it did do was that it eliminated other possible causes,” Ramirez said. “When you have an accident in NASA, it generates what you call a fault tree. So you look at anything that might have gone wrong and have to search for all of them, and by looking through all of these, you look at what might have been possible of false leads that now show that this is not a problem with the computers .”

Although Ramirez and his team did not receive any award for determining what went wrong with the shuttle, he said this helped technology for all future flights as well. He said at the time of the tragedy, he felt that finally “he could do something” instead of just wait and watch like he did in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in the 1980s as a student in middle school.

Ramirez has also gotten other awards for his work in global placement systems projects when it came to first introducing them into shuttles. However, he said without his upbringing of him in Laredo, nothing like this could have been possible. He hopes other Laredoans see they cannot just get out of the city or even the country to work and make a name for themselves but also out of this world.

“Laredoans can do anything, as there is a certain pride that comes from being from Laredo that I think is really unique,” he said. “Just because of the strong environment you grow in, the strong family connections and just the culture that kind of helps prepare you for the world.

“The heat and pressure prepares you for doing high stress work. It’s a really good place to live, and some people don’t know what Laredo is and what it is all about. Being from Laredo is actually very advantageous if you are going into a STEM field or something like computer programming.”

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