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Meet: Paul Espinosa

Project Engineer
Hardware Development

photo of paul espinosa

What I do:

I am a project engineer for the development of hardware for the space shuttle and space station to support life science research in space. I am currently working on the development of new capabilities for a rodent cage which flies in the space shuttle middeck. In 1998 I will be leading a project which will begin development of the first rodent cages to be flown in the space station.espinosa training astronaut jim pawelczyk in the use of the hardware

I am responsible for having hardware designed and built which meets all the researchers' and astronauts' requirements. This involves getting all the requirements together and understanding what is needed to meet these requirements, working with designers who make up the drawings to make sure they design and draw up what is required. It also involves having test (prototype) hardware built and tested to ensure it will work correctly, having the final "flight" hardware fabricated (the hardware which will actually fly in space) and put through additional testing to make sure it will operate correctly in space, and then to have the hardware prepared for delivery to Kennedy Space Center for launch on the space shuttle.

My Career Journey

When man first landed on the moon I was 11 years old, and I remember watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, and from that day on I always wanted to work on the U.S. space program. There are so many things that a person can do that I had to make a choice. When I went to high school I took a lot of drafting and design classes and decided I wanted to be an engineer. I went to college at U. C. Berkeley and majored in mechanical engineering. Because of my interests in space, I was the president of the U. C. Berkeley Space Club.

I worked for one year at McDonnell Douglas Aircraft company before I was able to get a job at NASA Ames Research Center. But I still did not work on space projects. I worked 6 1/2 years first as a test engineer on helicopters before I was able to transfer into the space group.

Preparation for Career

Believe it or not, I used to build huge rat cages from smaller cages. They were multi-leveled and had all kinds of passageways. It's funny that I now develop rat cages that fly in space. I also read every book I can on space and watched space movies and documentaries.


My dad was handicapped and has walked on crutches all my life. But he had a lot of responsibility working for the State of California. Seeing what he can do with his life, basically anything he wanted, always inspired me to believe that I could do what I dreamed, too. Also a lot of my teachers throughout my life helped me make the right decisions to get to where I am now.

Likes/Dislikes about career

I really like my job a lot and I tell everyone I know that. I get to work on equipment which flies in space, work with the astronauts, and make decisions that directly affect the type of hardware that flies in space. I also am responsible for the safety of the crew that is using my hardware. It's the kind of work I always dreamed of doing.

It's also hard because there is so much work to do to prepare for a shuttle flight, but still enjoyable.


Study hard, work hard at whatever you do and don't give up on pursuing your dream. You really can do in life what you want if you try hard enough. Just ask any astronaut. I have.

Personal Information

I have lots of outside activities, like rock and ice climbing, surfing, skate boarding and scuba diving. If you have a job that requires a lot of work you need an active life away from work to balance your life. I have climbed both the rock faces of Half Dome and El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, which takes the same type of commitment and perseverance that my job does sometimes, but it's more fun.


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