The Latinx community has one more reason to celebrate today. NASA recently selected Tennessee-born Puerto Rican Marcos Gabriel Berríos to join the 2021 Astronaut Candidate Class. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Berríos reports for duty in January 2022. He is an Air Force test pilot with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The boricua also has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and a doctorate in aeronautics and astronautics from Stanford University, Palo Alto, California. Marcos is an experienced pilot and has accumulated over 110 combat missions and 1,300 hours of flight time in more than 21 different aircraft.
NASA reported that Berríos began his career as an aerospace engineer for the U.S. Army Aviation Development Directorate at Moffett Field, California, in 2011. There, his research focused on understanding the dynamic behavior of using two helicopters to carry a single external load and the associated flight control challenges.
The same year, he began his operational flying career as a National Guardsman and HH-60G Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) helicopter pilot assigned to the 129th Rescue Squadron of the California Air National Guard at Moffett Field. Later, he got deployed to Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, where he conducted casualty evacuation and special operations missions.
In 2019, Berríos reported for duty at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in Patuxent River, Maryland, and once he graduated, he was assigned to the CSAR Combined Test Force at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada as a developmental test pilot.
When NASA selected Marcos as and astronaut candidate, he was serving as the commander of Detachment 1, 413th Flight Test Squadron and deputy director of the CSAR Combined Task Force.
When Berríos isn’t flying, he enjoys hiking, strength training, and swimming.