Pedro Rodriguez: Artist
There is art in everything: in how we live, in the work we choose to do, in the way we contribute to the world. I was exposed to that truth when I was young -- growing up in a household filled with music and dreams of space exploration -- but I didn't fully understand it until art became my profession.
I didn't want to be an artist as a child; I wanted to be a veterinarian, or better yet a musician. My grandfather was Pellin Rodriguez, a member of the internationally acclaimed Latin salsa band El Gran Combo, so everyone in my family naturally gravitated to music. My sister played clarinet and guitar; I played violin, trumpet and drums. I enjoyed them all, and I was good at them -- but music was not my passion. It was not my path.
For as long as I can remember, our family was as swept up in the grand adventure of spaceflight as we were in the music of our Puerto Rican heritage. My dad, Pedro "Pete" Rodriguez, worked for nearly 35 years as an engineer and inventor for NASA before he retired in 2010. From the time my siblings and I could walk and talk, he took us to watch rocket engine "hot-fire" tests and led us on tours of laboratories and test facilities that kindled our imaginations and made us believers in the value of exploration. But I did not possess my dad's practical, analytical engineer's mind or his love of numbers, and so I didn't believe engineering to be my path either.
Then, in college, I discovered I had a talent for illustration and design. I graduated in 2002 with a degree in graphic design. And later that year I found work as an illustrator -- at the Marshall Space Flight Center, no less -- the place where my father worked for so many years, and where he'd introduced me to the music of the imagination, the art of committing oneself to a mission far greater than any one individual.
Today, I am part of a team of graphics illustrators for the Marshall Center. I never expected to find such work among all those labs and test sites I'd visited as a kid, but it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. Now it's my job to tell NASA's story in compelling words and images -- whether I'm creating technical reports for projects, designing posters and brochures for an education activity, or creating any of a hundred other kinds of artwork to inform and inspire NASA team members, people in industry and the government, or the public.
There is music in this career, and there is art in weaving new dreams of spaceflight for the nation. I am so thankful to play a role in that.