Press Release

Hispanic NASA Engineer Helps Space Station Crews Stay Fit

By SpaceRef Editor
April 29, 2004
Filed under ,

Growing up in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Carlos Ortiz-Longo
liked to take things apart. His father, a medical doctor,
encouraged his young son’s curiosity, helping him learn the
way things work, even teaching him to fix his own bicycle.

Today, Ortiz-Longo is still fixing his bicycle. Only this one
is more than 200 miles above the Earth, on the International
Space Station. Ortiz-Longo manages a team of more than 30
people who keep the Station’s exercise equipment tuned. The
Crew Health Care System and Exercise Countermeasures team is
located at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston.

The team works closely with the astronauts to ensure
equipment operates correctly in space and provides
maintenance procedures for keeping equipment running. In
addition to exercise equipment, they are responsible for
ensuring the operation of heart rate monitors, computers for
logging in exercise data and other related equipment. They
also confer with the center’s medical operations team, who
design exercise programs for Station crews and decide whether
astronauts are healthy enough to participate in spacewalks
and other strenuous activities.

Floating around in low-gravity inside the Station can be fun,
but the bones and muscles, including the heart, don’t get a
workout like they do when they toil against the force of
Earth’s gravity. Therefore, it’s imperative the crew has
access to fitness equipment. “To stay physically fit, each
crew member works out at least 90 minutes, six days a week,”
Ortiz-Longo said. “The 11 crew members who have lived four-
to-six months on the Space Station to date have logged almost
1,000 hours on two different treadmills, and hundreds more
hours on the other exercise equipment,” he added.

Since the treadmill is kept in a part of the Station built
and operated by the Russian Space Federation, any changes to
the machine must be coordinated with the Russian flight
control team. Ortiz-Longo enjoys working with the Russians
and the other partner countries. He is studying Russian. He
is already fluent in Spanish, a skill he uses in his spare
time to provide math tutoring for Spanish-speaking students
who have just come to America.

Ortiz-Longo moved from Puerto Rico to the continental United
States in 1983, when he joined NASA as a cooperative
education student. “I had been studying mechanical
engineering at the University of Puerto Rico campus in
Mayaguez,” he said. “I saw a flyer saying NASA was visiting
the school. I ran over as fast as I could and signed up for
an interview,” he said.

Five months later, Ortiz-Longo was at JSC, helping with crew
training for a Space Shuttle mission. He worked closely with
astronauts Owen Garriott and Robert Parker, helping train
them for the first Spacelab mission, a science laboratory
that was carried aloft numerous times in the Space Shuttle
payload bay.

He graduated from the University of Puerto Rico in 984 and
joined NASA full-time as part of JSC’s engineering
directorate. He earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in
materials science and engineering from the University of
Houston, in 1993 and 2000, respectively. Before joining the
Space Station program in 2002, he served as the Space Shuttle
Division Chief Engineer for structures, mechanics and

In 1996, he was selected as a finalist in the astronaut
selection program. No surprise for a man who considers
himself a scientist and an explorer. Exploring space is just
the next logical step, a conviction that goes all the way
back to that inquisitive childhood.

Media organizations interested in interviewing Ortiz-Longo
should contact Julie Burt, Johnson Space Center Public
Affairs at: 281/483-5111.

For information about NASA and agency programs on the
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SpaceRef staff editor.