OLLU alum reflects on advice that led her to become part of NASA’s Orion team

She’s been NASA now 14 years working at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Currently working on Artemis II launch.

SAN ANTONIO – An Our Lady of the Lake alum reflects on advice that blasted off her career as a NASA employee, connecting her to the launch of Artemis I.

Artemis I successfully got NASA’s Orion spacecraft to orbit the moon. As of Monday, Orion has now gone the furthest distance into space of any spacecraft designed to carry humans.

Yvonne Villegas-Aguilera is a Branch Chief of the Solid Propulsion and Pyro Devices Branch at NASA. One of many employees who helped with the November 16 launch.

“After what, 50 years, we’re going back to the moon,” Villegas-Aguilera said. “And just the fact that we were able to launch and everything looks {and} seems to be working well, and looks great.”

Villegas-Aguilera’s area of expertise is in the booster, more commonly known as the motor, to ensure the launch of the Orion spacecraft into space.

“I helped to help determine the requirements and the design and the certification,” Villegas-Aguilera said.

Her only focus is on the launch itself.

After a much-needed vacation, she has time to reflect on the ten years in the making mission.

It goes back to her time as an undergrad chemistry major at Our Lady of the Lake University when she took advice from an advisor to apply for an internship at NASA, blasting her career into the aerospace and engineering world.

“That was never exposed to me growing up.” Villegas-Aguilera, “And I didn’t realize it was something that I could do with chemistry.”

She’s been at NASA for 14 years, working at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

It’s only the beginning, as Villegas-Aguilera is currently working on the launch of Artemis II. This time with astronauts on board.

She wants those who are inspired by her journey to know the power of an internship.

“If there’s an internship opportunity to take it,” Villegas-Aguilera said. “If my advisor had never told me about that internship, I would have never thought this was a possibility for me.”

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About the Authors:

Alexsis Page has been a News Producer at KSAT since 2019. A former military brat, she was born in Killeen, raised in El Paso, but calls Lawton, Oklahoma, home. She began her journalism career as an editor and later news producer at KSWO in Lawton and also produced at WICS/WRSP in Springfield, Illinois.