When Tomas Gonzalez-Torres first stepped on the Iowa State campus as a student in the fall of 1992, his dream was to work at NASA. Just two years later, Gonzalez-Torres had a co-op internship at the Johnson Space Center and graduated in 1998 with a job at NASA.
Nineteen years later, Gonzalez-Torres returns to Iowa State as a lecturer in the Department of Aerospace Engineering.
Since moving back to Iowa to be closer to family, Gonzalez-Torres spent the last 10 months at Vermeer Corporation in Pella, Iowa. While he was
able to work in engineering and be close to home, Gonzalez-Torres missed the space passion that he had at NASA.
“My other passion was Iowa State,” Gonzalez-Torres said. “I met my wife here, and have a great history with Iowa State and shared great experiences. Coming back here and getting to think, work, and talk about space again is a perfect fit.”
At NASA, Gonzalez-Torres was a flight director from 2011-2015, where he earned the prestigious NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal for his exceptional performance as head of an International Space Station Expedition. Prior to his time as flight director, Gonzalez-Torres served as the group lead for Extravehicular Activity (EVA) where he managed the training of crew members and executed operations in Mission Control during spacewalks.
Gonzalez-Torres sees a lot of similarities between his duties at NASA and his new position working with the senior design students at Iowa State.
“At the Johnson Space Center, I had to teach and interact with people from multiple organizations,” Gonzalez-Torres said. “Also, the first 11 years of my career at NASA were spent teaching astronauts.”
As an EVA instructor, Gonzalez-Torres trained astronauts for space walks.
“We trained the astronauts on how to use the space suits, all of the tools, as well as the tasks and techniques that they would use,” Gonzalez-Torres said.
Gonzalez-Torres worked on such missions as the Hubble repair mission and Space Station assembly.
One of the astronauts he worked with at NASA was fellow Iowa State University alum, Clay Anderson. Gonzalez-Torres joins Anderson as member of the faculty in the department which now has a former NASA astronaut and flight director instructing students.
Gonzalez-Torres brings his unique experience and skill set to Iowa State, where he will expand the senior design program from building planes and drones to a focus on space activities.