Mario Romero stands in front of the completed moon lander “Odysseus” prior to being shipped to Florida for the launch to the moon aboard a Space X Falcon 9 rocket. Photo provided by City of Vineland.

AC JosepH Media

VINELAND — Vineland City officials will present the Key to the City to renowned young spacecraft engineer and Vineland High School graduate Mario Romero, on April 4, in City Council Chambers beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Romero recently gained national recognition as part of the team at Houston-based Intuitive Machines, which designed and built the Nova-C Lander Odysseus, which recently became the first U.S. vehicle to land on the surface of the moon since 1972.

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As the assembly integration and test engineer, Romero was involved in testing individual components and ultimately building the vehicle from the ground up. He also helped name the vehicle, drawing inspiration from Homer’s epic poem Odyssey and its Greek hero Odysseus, King of Ithaca.

On Feb. 22, Nova-C lander Odysseus completed a seven-day journey to lunar orbit and softly landed near crater Malapert A in the South Pole region of the Moon. 

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“Odysseus marks the first successful soft landing of NASA’s CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) initiative and the first time that new NASA science instruments and technology demonstrations are operating on the Moon in more than 50 years,” said a statement from NASA, the world’s premier space agency.

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this image of the Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lander, called Odysseus, on the Moon’s surface on Feb. 24, 2024, at 1:57 p.m. (EST). Odysseus landed at 80.13 degrees south latitude, 1.44 degrees east longitude, at an elevation of 8,461 feet (2,579 meters). Photo courtesy of NASA.

The landing was just the latest accomplishment for Romero, who also worked for NASA as a spacewalk instructor/diver and served his country as an elite Navy SEAL. Romero overcame PTSD and used his free time to help veterans overcome brain injuries while at Mesa College San Diego.

He also dedicated his time to helping homeless and food-insecure veterans and children. In 2015, he was awarded the ABC10 News Salute to Heroes Award for San Diego veterans. That same year, Romero was part of a Mesa College student delegation that visited Washington, D.C. to advocate for student veterans and other issues.

“We are so incredibly proud of what you have accomplished, your service to the country, and the important work you are now doing to help pave the way for a sustainable human presence on and around the moon,” Vineland Mayor Anthony Fanucci said in a recent Facebook post.

Mario Romero in a spacesuit holding a flag with the Navy Seal emblem. Behind him, in the 6.2 million gallon pool at NASA which simulates micro gravity, is a replica of the international space station. Photo provided by City of Vineland.

The post continued, “You are truly an inspiration to everyone in the community, especially those interested in STEM science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers. Keep up the great work!”

Mario Romero is a graduate of Vineland High School and attended Rowan University prior to joining the Navy. After completing his service, he began studying astrophysics and astronomy at San Diego Mesa College.

After transferring to Columbia University, he earned a bachelor’s degree in pure mathematics and astrophysics. He went on to earn his master’s degree in systems engineering from the University of Houston.

For more information, please contact Special Events Coordinator Sheena Santiago at 856-794-4000, ext. 4169.

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