In 2016, Elon Musk selected Jose Fernandez to create the space suits used in the Dragon capsule that docked with the ISS on Sunday. The Dragon launch is the first American manned space launch in almost a decade. It signal’s America’s return to space.

Whenever space travel and Mexicans are mentioned in one sentence many snicker in the mistaken belief that Mexicans have no influence over humanity’s space programs. But nothing can be further from the truth.

It is true that México’s space program is dwarfed by those of the United States, China, Russia and even India. That does not mean that Mexicans aren’t involved in space programs across the globe.

It started with a request to design a cool looking space helmet to present to Elon Musk. For Jose Fernandez, a well-known sculptor and designer who thought SpaceX was just a “movie” went to work. Fernandez, owner of Ironhead Studio in California, is known for designing Batman’s suit and other apparel in well-known movies.

Fernandez’ helmet was one of six designs submitted for Musk to select.

The Dragon launch proved that Fernandez was the winner.

However, the designer is not the first Latino working on the space program, or Mexican for that matter.

NASA Astronaut José M Hernández went into space in 2009 on board STS-128. Hernández is a proud Mexican American as evidenced by the Mexican flag in the background of his official NASA photograph.

In 1985, Rodolfo Neri Vela was the first Mexican astronaut in space. Neri Vela, who is a Mexican citizen, flew on STS-61B. In 2007 (STS-117) and again in 2009 (STS-128), University of Texas at El Paso Alumni (UTEP) John D. Olivas flew into space.

México has been growing its aerospace industry steadily over the years with indigenous aircraft under development and aerospace manufacturing taking over the sector.

Mexican scientist Miguel Alcubierre has been steadly working on the Alcubierre drive, an attempt to achieve faster-than-light travel since 1994. How serious is his “warp drive” idea?

In 2011, NASA scientist, Dr. Harold “Sonny” White published a NASA paper titled Warp Field Mechanics 101 that looked at the feasibility of Alcubierre’s warp research. That research was followed by Warp Field Mechanics 102 in 2013.

México maintains a small fleet of satellites in orbit for telecommunications and military activities. Many Mexicans and students have been invited to NASA over the years.

It is just a matter of time before México takes its aerospace sector to the next level, a more active space program. For now, future American astronauts will be using a space suit designed by a Latino.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...