When Jared Martinez graduated from Questa High School in 2003, he never expected to find himself working at the forefront of America’s new Space Race. Never a slacker, he also would not have considered himself a top student.
The son of Frances and Russell Martinez, Jared said “I played sports, I had a bunch of friends, I went out. I wanted decent grades but I was never shooting to be the valedictorian or top of my class.”
But after starting at UNM, that began to change. “It wasn’t until I hit college that I really buckled down. Then I got into civil engineering and mechanical engineering.
Then I really started getting into my grades.” And got into them he did, graduating with honors in both undergrad and grad school.
Following his newfound passion, Jared pursued a graduate’s degree in mechatronic engineering, a “full systems degree” with management elements, while starting his career in aerospace in Houston. “I was doing a co-op project with Lockheed-Martin …called Targets and Countermeasures… and the recession hit.” Jared initially wanted to continue his work in missile defense but opportunities were drying up.
Fortunately, his hard work had already proven his worth to the company. “I was supposed to move to San Diego [in 2009] and keep doing missiles there but they had a hiring freeze and then that’s when Houston called me.”
By Houston, he means Lockheed-Martin’s division working on NASA’s Orion project. His first job out of college, Martinez has been there ever since, watching the Orion project morph into today’s Artemis mission.
For those unfamiliar with the Artemis Project (like this reporter), Jared explains: “It’s basically to reestablish deep-space technology we haven’t had since the 1950s, but to go even farther than we ever have. So, the goal is to get back into deep space. Right now, space is sort of an untapped market and everybody’s trying to get a piece of it, including other countries. It’s basically to establish the technology then determine what we really want to do with it from there. But the moon is just the first step and our endgame is really to get to Mars.”
Having been with the project through three presidential administrations, Jared is now one of the old hands; “I’m a team lead on the Orion spacecraft crew modules – the console, the windows, where the crew sits. I oversee all the design development, make sure everything works.” As a certified principal engineer, Jared is ultimately responsible for the lives of the future Artemis astronauts, a hefty responsibility, but one he can handle.
He says a career like his isn’t so out of reach. “Go out and do whatever it is you want to do at the time, even if it scares you or you don’t think you can do it. It might not be what you eventually want to do, but it might open doors you never knew existed before, and that might be what you actually want to do the whole time. Everything just happens for a reason. Basically, don’t be afraid to take risks, or do whatever it is you want to do. Don’t let anything stop you.”
“You don’t need a 4.0 to work for NASA or really do whatever it is you want to do. I’ve hired a few people and GPA is not the first thing you look at. It’s important! But there’s a lot of other factors. So, as long as you have a solid GPA and a solid head on your shoulders, that’s [what employers look for]. Desire, work ethic — basically be a good human, that’s the kind of thing we would look at.”
And don’t worry, he says. You can still work for NASA if you’re not into science fiction. “A lot of my coworkers make fun of me because I’ve never seen Star Wars or Star Trek actually,” he said with a smile. “And it’s like I might be the only one, so it’s becoming a point where even if I want to watch it, I want to hold out just because!”
Stay tuned for our February issue, we will hear more from Jared Martinez about the future of the space race and upcoming Artemis missions.