•lifetime achievement•


Robert A.

Project Management Branch
NASA Johnson Space Center

M.S., Electrical Engineering, Southern Methodist University
B. Sci., Electrical Engineering, Southern Methodist University

As an 8-year-old growing up in San Antonio and watching Neil Armstrong take the first human steps on the moon, Robert A. Villareal could never imagine that he would one day be working for the agency responsible for that monumental accomplishment. 

Now, as the Chief of the Project Management Branch in the Engineering Directorate at the NASA Johnson Space Center, Mr. Villareal continues his over 35-year career as an electrical engineer and engineering manager in the aerospace field by overseeing project managers of large interdisciplinary projects including the Orion Ascent Abort 2 Crew Module/Separation Ring Project, the Orion Capsule Parachute Assembly System project, and the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) project. 

Growing up in a predominantly Hispanic blue-collar neighborhood, Mr. Villareal was the first in his family to attend college, enrolling at Southern Methodist University in Dallas as part of the university’s Minority Co-op 5-year Program, where he alternated going to school and working at a local company, Continental Electronics, each semester.

It was at SMU that he joined MAES, the Mexican American Engineering Society, which has inspired him to continue to mentor young engineers and support career days and outreach events to encourage minority STEM students. After earning his Bachelors of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from SMU, Mr. Villareal worked on his M.S. in the same field at the university while simultaneously working as a Project Engineer for ElectroSpace Systems in Dallas.

Once he was awarded his Master’s degree, he joined Lockheed Martin where, over the course of the next 16 years, he rose from Principal Engineer — working on flight hardware for the Space Shuttle and Space Station Programs — to Project Manager for the Avionic Systems Division and the Biomedical Systems Division in support of NASA to Section Manager of the Avionic Systems Section supporting the NASA/JSC Avionics Division.

Mr. Villareal joined NASA in 2004, initially as Project Manager for the Wing Leading Edge Impact Detection System for the Space Shuttle program, before moving to become the Deputy Chief of the Environmental Systems and Instrument Branch and later the Acting Branch Chief of the Biomedical Systems Branch where he also worked on the International Space Station program.

Before his current role, he also held several other positions at NASA, including Associate Chief of the Systems Architecture and Integration Office, Manager of the Project Management and Institutional Systems Office, and Chief of the Contract and Business Integration Branch.

A registered professional engineer in the state of Texas, Mr. Villareal is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and has written several articles for professional publications. He is the recipient of several performance awards from NASA, including a Silver Snoopy Award, a Manned Flight Awareness Award, and an RTF Flight Awareness Award.