Rodolfo Neri Vela, the first and only Mexican astronaut to travel into space, will make his first appearance ever at Astronaut Encounter at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Aug. 10-14. His 2 p.m. Astronaut Encounter presentations will be made in Spanish. Astronaut Encounter is included in daily admission to the Visitor Complex: $50 plus tax for adults and $40 plus tax for children 3-11.

Born on February 19, 1952, in Guerrero, Mexico, Neri Vela became the first Mexican astronaut at the age of 33. Neri Vela received his Bachelor of Science Degree in mechanical and electrical engineering from the National Autonomous University of Mexico in 1975. Four years later, Neri Vela earned a doctoral degree in electromagnetic radiation from the University of Birmingham in England.

Neri Vela was serving as head of the Department of Planning and Engineering of the Morelos Satellite Program when NASA selected him to be a payload specialist for Atlantis STS-61B. STS-61B, launched on Nov. 26, 1985. This made Neri Vela the first Mexican astronaut in space. During this mission, the crew successfully deployed three communication satellites, including the Mexican MORELOS-B satellite Neri Vela had been working on. A little more than six days later, the crew returned to Edwards Air Force Base in Texas. Neri Vela had successfully traveled 2.4 million miles in 108 Earth orbits, logging more than 165 hours in space.

From 1989 through 1990, he worked for the European Space Agency as part of the planning team for a section of the International Space Station. In 1991, Neri Vela was inducted to the International Space Hall of Fame for his accomplishments. He has published numerous books and articles, including Communications Satellites and Inhabited Space Stations. Today, Neri Vela teaches post-graduates at his alma mater: National Autonomous University of Mexico.

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