Center Snapshot - Paul Banicevic
Paul Banicevic.
Image above: Paul Banicevic volunteered his time at EarthFest to help spread the word about NASA's mission to the community. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith.

By: Denise Adams

Paul Banicevic continues to chase his dream of becoming an astronaut while working at NASA Langley as an aerospace flight systems engineer.

“Probably not unlike a lot of folks out here at NASA. Someone has to do it [become an astronaut], right?” Banicevic said.

His chase is helped with an extensive collection of college degrees and related work experiences.

Banicevic received Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is working on yet another master’s degree in astronautical engineering from the University of Southern California.

Banicevic’s first job out of graduate school was with ATK Space Systems in Goleta, Calif., as a design engineer. He also interned at Chevron and Lockheed Martin during his undergraduate studies.

Moving to Virginia was a big step for Banicevic, who had lived in California for 20 years. “I have to learn to take on new challenges and make sacrifices to achieve my dreams,” he said.

He was surprised to see that Virginia was so green. And he appreciates experiencing all four seasons and new weather conditions. “I also really like the local Virginian accent. It’s quite different than what you hear in California,” he explained.

“I enjoy exploring my new home,” he said. “The East Coast is all new to me.”

Banicevic is multinational. “I was born in England. My mom is English and my dad is Croatian,” he said. “I grew up in California. I work in Virginia. My dad lives and works in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and my mom lives and works in Reunion Island (a French overseas department in the Indian Ocean). I have family in Croatia and England, but none in the US.”

From multinational to trilingual. … Banicevic speaks Portuguese and French in addition to English.

Of all of his experiences, two treasured moments stand out for Banicevic: “Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature (as governor of California) on my Mechanical Engineering MS degree and getting a job at NASA.”

He enjoys working at NASA Langley because “I am able to work side-by-side with people who are as stoked to work at NASA as I am, and I have a hand in helping send people back to the moon.”

Banicevic also appreciates the dedication of the center to career development, the flexible work schedule and the ability to pursue different areas of interest.

Since his arrival at NASA Langley seven months ago, his efforts have been associated with the Orion CEV’s Launch Abort System (LAS).

“As the LAS Mechanisms Subsystem Manager I provide contractor oversight on all LAS mechanisms,” he said. “This includes making sure all the data they provide NASA is technically sound, providing technical insight into any problems that may arise, and making sure they are not missing anything important.

“I do this by supporting numerous technical telecons, attending design reviews and building independent dynamics models of the mechanisms, which enable me to independently verify the mechanism’s performance data.”

Banicevic is proud of his work and involvement with the LAS.

“I have a say (no matter how small) in what the new Orion CEV spacecraft will look like. This is the spacecraft that will replace the shuttle, and will soon be traveling to the moon, and hopefully one day to Mars,” Banicevic said.

“Because we float these terms and ideas around so nonchalantly here at NASA, I feel like they have lost some of their magic. We’re all very fortunate to be working on the projects that we do, and I am especially grateful for the opportunity to have a say in this new vehicle’s design.”

He hopes his accomplishments have only just begun.

He plans to “be an integral part of our nation’s space program. I want to motivate young students about the excitement of space travel and to give back to our local community, and communities worldwide, by being an active member of a non-profit humanitarian organization, such as Engineers Without Borders, that helps developing communities worldwide improve their quality of life.”

Banicevic enjoys many hobbies.

“Surfing is by and large my favorite past time,” he said. “It’s great exercise, gets you outdoors, motivates you to travel to cool, exotic places and is just plain fun.”

He also enjoys mountain biking, snowboarding, soccer, playing guitar, SCUBA diving, sailing, tennis and traveling.

He hopes his travels will one day include a trip into space as a NASA astronaut. Banicevic has already submitted his application to the Astronaut Candidate Program.

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