July 16, 2024

TEXAS, U.S.A. –“Shoot for the moon, even if you missed, you will still land among the stars.”  

A young boy from a farming community in Tabuk City, Kalinga, did just that.  

It was his wild dream to become an astronaut and decades later, he ended up among the astronauts flying around the moon and stars.

Filipino engineer Czar Augustus Estranero Domingo of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) did not become an astronaut but he attained nearest his dream as he is now working to ensure the safety and comfort of every spacecraft and astronaut.

His passion for aerospace technology led him to continue reaping recognitions for his contribution in sounding rockets projects and launches. 

Domingo recently received the 2024 NASA Special Act-individual awardee for various NASA project supports such as Sounding Rockets, Balloon & Range program software projects. 

It was awarded on May 15 by Makenzie Lystrup, Center Director of Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. 

Engr. Czar Augustus E. Domingo

Domingo is an aerospace technology software assurance engineer of the Safety Mission Assurance Department based at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility, a launch range and research airport at Wallops Island.

In 2020, his team received the NASA Silver Achievement Medal Award for the Artemis Back to the Moon Project as NEN (Near Earth Network) Launch Communication Segment Team.  Not long after, NASA successfully launched Artemis 1 from the Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 16, 2022.  

This marked the agency’s return to lunar exploration after the conclusion of the Apollo program five decades earlier. A series of Artemis launching is expected until 2030.

Domingo worked on many rocket launches, including the Northrop Grumman Antares Rocket carrying four tons of vital supplies for astronauts to the International Space Station.

Domingo now lives in Berlin, Maryland with his family.

His dream of working with NASA dates back to his childhood days in Tabuk.

“Since I was a kid, I’ve been and still am amazed at how God created the world, including the vastness of space, which started my interest in aerospace. My amazement made me dream of someday working in the space industry and becoming an astronaut.” 

He advised young and talented Filipino kids to not give up on their dream.

While at the Tabuk National High School, he was asked what career to pursue in college.

“I answered that I was interested in becoming a lawyer to help people who are vulnerable and cannot afford a lawyer. However, as I was getting closer to my high school graduation, my heart was leading me to enroll in Aeronautical Engineering or Electronics and Communications or Electrical Engineering, which would help with aerospace exploration, and someday work at NASA. My friends back then thought I was crazy. In the Philippines, it seems farfetched if you work for NASA, considering the Philippines is a Third World country and there’s a lot of competition in the U.S.,” he said.

It was his mother Coining, a public school teacher, who inspired him and his siblings not to give up on their education. 

The young Czar got a scholarship and finished Electronics and Communications Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology in Manila.

Domingo also has a master’s degree in Science in Cybersecurity, a master’s degree in Science in Information Assurance, and a PhD is in the process.  He is also a certified “ethical hacker”.

Domingo started as an Engineering instructor then worked with an information technology integration company, Leverage Systems Technology, for three years which paved the way from him to be hired in Singapore by Citibank, then AT&T.  He was given an opportunity by AT&T to migrate to the United States during the Y2K period in California.

“When we moved from the Bay Area of California to New Jersey, my NASA dream has been rekindled every time I got nearer a NASA facility.” 

While applying at NASA, Domingo had to raise his family even after losing his job due to recession in 2001.  “I worked odd jobs. When the IT industry came back to life I worked with Michael Aram as the IT manager, then got back and worked as a consultant for AT&T, Citigroup and Johnson & Johnson.”

But he was determined to work with NASA. “I kept applying for jobs at NASA but without any response until my contract with Johnson & Johnson was cut short, forcing me to accept a job with Perdue Farms Inc. in Maryland. But God was the director and still the director of my life and my career,” he said.

After nine years of working with Perdue Farms Inc. as a project manager/network design engineer, Domingo was laid off. He realized, however, that he is in close proximity to one of NASA’s flight facilities at Wallops Island.

“God opened the door and after a long wait, I was accepted as a network engineer for the range operations contract at NASA Wallops Flight Facility. I was hired not only as a network engineer, but as a lead network engineer, and tasked to rebuild the network engineering team.”

After a couple of years, Domingo was given a permanent civil servant position which was opened in the Safety Mission Assurance-software assurance engineering team of the NASA Wallops Flight Facility.

“Even if I did not accomplish my goal of becoming an astronaut, working at NASA is the closest thing to my dream of becoming an astronaut. I praise God and I give glory back to Him.”

Domingo again shared lessons learned. “To accomplish great things, you must not only act but also dream, not only plan but also believe. Never let life’s setbacks stop you from going after your dreams. I didn’t have time, but I made time. I didn’t have knowledge, but I kept learning. I didn’t have support, but I learned to support myself. I was tired, but I learned to rest, not to quit,” borrowing from Anatole France for words for thought. – Mike Guimbatan

(Editors’ note: The author was a veteran journalist in Baguio City when he migrated with his family to the United States where he now teaches as a senior Math teacher).