The first question you are usually asked when you say you are a rocket engineer is Are you going to be an astronaut? But the answer is longer than a simple “no”, and Nicolás Conde explains it with the humility and dedication that will characterize him throughout the interview.
At the age of 25, this young man from Buenos Aires became the first graduate of the career of Space Engineering of the School of Science and Technology (ECyT) of the National University of San Martin (Unsam) and already works in the National Commission for Space Activities (Conae) in the project Saokom II.
“Since I was a child I always liked engineering. In other words, making and designing things. The space thing was born bigger, when I was seeing the launches and the missions, and I began to learn about Argentine space history,” Conde told in dialogue with telam.
He always had a “facility” for mathematics and physics, so the first years of Engineering did not “cost him too much”. He really liked cars, so he went to an auto technician and was able to build a good foundation in those subjects. But the key is not only numbers and formulas: “Throughout there one has the image that the engineer has to know only mathematics, but all other artistic and creative parts are also needed. The engineer’s job is to solve problems and for that you have to be inventive.”
When he finished high school, he was going to enroll in Naval Engineering at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA), but he just saw an advertisement for Space Engineering on the networks: “I had already been looking for that degree and I only found offers in Spain, there was nothing in Latin America and I couldn’t go to another country to study”.
Until the course opened at the ECyT of Unsam, with the direction of Roberto Yasielsky, and the next day he went to register. This career trains professionals to contribute to the development of science and technology in the space sector in Argentina.
Another recent university alternative is the career of Aerospace engineering of the National University of La Plata (UNLP)which until 2019 was Aeronautical Engineering, and which this year He also had his first graduate.
“Those who work in Systems Engineering, what they do is look for, although it sounds redundant, that the system works. It is a complex system with many parts that interact with each other and have interfaces. There are many people who work in these little parts and there is someone who has We have to ensure that all this works when it is integrated. That is the role of the systems engineer”.
What they do in their career is then Engineering in Space Systems, which can be explained simply as “see many subjects of each subsystem of the satellite, with the aim of being able to speak with experts in different areas such as electronics or mechanics, and understand all the subjects but from a more general perspective”.
In 2021, Nicolás did an internship at Conae and collaborated in the conceptual design of a SAR instrument for the integrating project called Focuswhose objective is to monitor critical infrastructures, such as bridges, buildings and dams, to help in preventive maintenance or take measures in the event of a collapse.
Currently, the brand new engineer works at Conae and in particular in systems engineering of the SAR radar instrument of the Saocom II mission. There it seeks to continue the first generation of Argentine satellites and update technology to improve performance.
“My boss at CONAE is John Paul Cuesta, which is an eminence. It is spectacular to work by his side, and he also has a lot of patience to teach. Y Roberto Yasielskythe director of my career, is Argentine space history in person”.
In addition to “if he is going to be an astronaut”, another of the questions that Nicolás is usually asked is “if he is going to leave the country”. “Because there is the idea that there is not so much here and in the United States or Europe there is a bigger industry, which is. But in our country it also exists and is important. For now my thought is to work at Conae, which is what I dreamed of. The truth is, I love Argentina: the culture, the people, I have my family and friends here. If I go elsewhere I think I would feel enormously uprooted and if one day due to a particular circumstance it happens, it would be for a while because My thought is always to return to my country.
Your friends and your spare time
During the race, Nicolás participated in different national and international initiatives, such as the competition CubeDesingin which he developed the winning nanosatellite together with a team of colleagues who are now his friends and who are also about to graduate: Tomas Burroni, Camila Mucanna, Matías Escobar and Luis López.
With that team, they went to the test laboratory of the brazilian space agency and they got to know the “shakers”, instruments to make the satellites vibrate. “All this was new for us, we only knew it from the theory and it was a spectacular experience”:
“Now that I’m done with college, I’m thinking of doing a cooking or singing class. I really like going out to cinemas or theaters, and I also watch space movies or series. except “Star Wars” either “Star Trek”, movies I didn’t see and that I like not having seen them since I am amused by the reaction when I say it”.
Nicolás feels “great admiration” for Miguel San Martinthe Argentine who works in the POT: “I was able to greet him once when we went to give a talk about rockets with my colleagues in Uruguay. He was giving a conference about Mars and he came to our stand to greet us and we took a picture.”
Nicolás’ projects and dreams
The engineer remembers with emotion the day of his graduation, which was attended by his two grandmothers, his grandfather, his mother, his father, and his three brothers: “Everyone was in tears and proud.”
“In the world there are not many places that have the space industry and the professionals that there are in Argentina. In addition, in this career we come out directly as space engineers, ready for job opportunities.”
About his future, Nicolás says that “his most extreme dream, in the long term, is the interplanetary humanity”. Although “space exploration with probes, or Rovers as Miguel San Martín works”, he also “loves” them.
In any case, he does not forget another more pragmatic part, which he is already working on: “I want to solve people’s problems and needs.”