Roberto Crespo is a Guatemalan aerospace engineer who has dedicated himself to building NASA projects. He lived for two years in La Antigua, Guatemala, where he went on to design instruments and vehicles that aid in space exploration, such as the one he made on the Curiosity Rover to study Mars.
Crespo was born in San Jose California, United States. His parents, originally from the capital and San Lucas Toliman, Solola, Guatemala, met in the North American country, where he grew up and began his profession. “Since I was a kid, I was very interested in space stuff, and I had a special interest in airplanes and Star Wars movies. With LEGO, I was developing the ability to assemble and disassemble designs for anything. I guess it was my favorite game.”
When it came time to choose a college career, he had no idea what he was studying, although he was clear about his abilities to design things, so two teachers guided him into the mathematics and physics track, until he studied mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of California at Davis, United States.
Crespo decided to enter this professional field even without knowing exactly what he could work in as an engineer, but what drove him to be sure that it was an area of interest to him and that he could have good experiences.
His first job was in an airline as someone responsible for designing and maintaining tools used by technicians who repair aircraft. “After the fascination with airplanes, I was working in a place where, once I left my office, I could see them up close. It was a dream. In addition to the fact that my job consisted of designing or repairing a small tool to the base where the aircraft’s engine would be placed for its maintenance. It was definitely one of my favorite acts.”
His engineering career grew while working for a company where he was able to design parts and tools for aircraft and satellites. He then moved to Los Angeles, California after having two daughters with his wife.
Work with NASA
Upon arriving in Los Angeles, he began working for a company called Sierra Lobo, Inc. Their designs are specifically for a research and development laboratory responsible for building unmanned missions to space, associated with NASA.
The Curiosity rover is part of the Mars Science Laboratory mission. (Free press photo: screenshot).
The project he started with was the Curiosity Rover, the vehicle – or as Crespo calls it “the lab on wheels” – that landed in Gale crater on Mars in August 2012. “At first I didn’t have much experience in this branch of engineering, but the project manager called Please contact me to see if you are interested in project management. He saw my enthusiasm, so we got to work. It was a difficult four years, but everything went well. That’s how I found my way into projects with JPL and space projects.
Roberto Crespo also worked as a wire engineer on the “Observatory Carbon 3 (OCO-3)” project, which looks for traces of carbon dioxide, the main cause of the global warming effect. (Free press photo: courtesy).
Planetary Defense Telescope
In 2019, they and his family decided to take a year off vacation to learn about other countries and other lifestyles. His daughters were about to enter high school, so it was a good time not to interrupt their studies and academic record, which is vital for entering university in the United States.
The first stop they planned was La Antigua Guatemala, where they would spend six months and then go to Spain. However, at the beginning of 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic began, so his plans changed. They decided to stay in the country indefinitely. We were supposed to leave in March 2020, but with the virus problem things got complicated, as well as the fact that my daughters didn’t want to leave. We talked about it with my wife and we stayed,” he comments.
Last year, he got a call from his former boss of Sierra Lobo, Inc. Offer him a job on a new project. “He explained to me that they are now working from home, so I accepted,” he says. What started with one project turned into two and a few months ago four different project designs for NASA were created from his workplace.
The NEO Surveyor project will be launched into space in 2026. (Photo Prensa Libre: screenshot).
“I work at El Cubo, which is a co-working place in San Lorenzo El Cubo, Sacatepequez, where they offer good internet and a very comfortable space. From my computer, which is like my lab, I run my work and design it. It’s great to be able to do this from Guatemala,” he confirms.
The main project that he is currently working on is called Crespo, which consists of a telescope with which it is possible to observe objects passing at a certain distance from Earth that can cause damage, such as asteroids and comets with a size of 30 million. miles from Earth’s orbit. “Right now we can only do this with telescopes that are here, so a lot of detail is lost when viewed from Earth. So you just have to send a dedicated message for that and it will be launched in 2026.”
“The experiences that come with time, like designing something on paper, putting it on a computer, then seeing how the parts are made, putting them together and seeing how they work, doing tests and then putting it in a box to see how it works. It’s being launched into space and it’s something that no one can experience, so I want to support Guatemala so that more people can experience that as well,” he declared.
Crespo wants to inspire more young people to follow their dreams and have “incredible” experiences like the ones they have had. So far 1bot, a group dedicated to supporting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in Guatemalan schools, has approached him to provide ideas on how children can participate in technology and NASA projects.
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