“I’m not here because of anything I’ve done. I’m here because of everything everyone’s done for me,” said astronaut and University of Houston alum Danny Olivas. The two-time veteran of NASA space flights is grounded by the support family, friends and teachers have provided him—a long line of role models that began on top of his El Paso house with his father and a telescope.
“In El Paso, which is West Texas, the skies are so clear. You can see forever,” Olivas remembers. “We would take the telescope on top of the roof and watch the moon. I remember those nights vividly. We’d look at the craters of the moon, talk about it, and it was that sense of wonderment of space, the vastness of space, looking at stars. I came to appreciate the importance those experiences had on shaping my passions today.”
Olivas saves his greatest thanks for his wife, Marie, whom he calls the most consistent influence in his life. The pair was at UH together getting their master’s degrees (she in About her master’s in education: education; he in mechanical engineering). He says his professors and advisers further buoyed his drive to the stars.
“The ones I remember Dr. Van Arsdale, Dr. Dalton, Dr. Ravi-Shandar were mentors. I could confide in them, struggles I was having trying to balance work and school and commuting from Freeport to Houston,” he said.
But while he has been the one making front page news, Olivas humbly acknowledges those whose support launched his success. “I stand on the shoulders of everybody who’s been there to help me and that took me to 220 miles above the surface of the Earth,” Olivas said. “I also know that I have a responsibility to take my experiences and take the things that I can do and help others around me.
Danny Olivas is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston. I’m Marisa Ramirez.
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