St. Louis University graduate part of engineering team managing InSight Lander

ST.LOUIS - It's a story that is out of this world with NASA doing it again. Mars InSight Lander made its historic touchdown safely.

St. Louis was well-represented in the ranks of engineers overseeing and managing the project.

Among the cheers that erupted Monday at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California was St. Louis University graduate and project engineer Fernando Abilleira breathing a sigh of relief.

“We were able to witness the results of all the hard work and dedication of a lot of people," said Abilleira who earned a B.S. and an M.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Parks College of Saint Louis University and began his university studies at SLU-Madrid.

"I feel relieved that everything worked the way it’s supposed to," Abilleira continued to say. “We needed to make sure the instruments were healthy in the interplanetary travel.”

InSight's mission is to study the Martian underworld, listen for tremors and collect data of the Red Planet to help scientists understand how Mars and other rocky planets formed.

“I personally have to say the first landing day and the first couple of pictures of a place no human has ever seen before also remind us that in order to do science, we have to be bold and we have to be explorers," said Michael Watkins Director of Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Meanwhile, Abilleira said he credits his alma mater for providing the educational blueprint that lead to his personal achievement and plans to give back to a future generation of engineers.

“I had some opportunities to visit the school after I graduated and give talks to some of the students," he said, "but it was a great experience and I have wonderful memories.”

Abilleira said that he is already working on the Mars 2020 rover.

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