January 5, 2021

Going above and beyond

Aerospace professor helps give UND an international platform for spaceflight and exploration.

Endowed Faculty

Dr. Pablo de León chairs the UND Space Studies program and holds the additional titles of professor, researcher and space suit inventor. He also directs the UND Human Spaceflight Laboratory which is home to the Inflatable Lunar Mars Habitat.

Since 2014, nine missions have taken place in the NASA-funded project, giving students research experience from a campus-based environment that mimics that of the planet Mars. Research projects have ranged from testing medical effects of long-duration spaceflight to plant growth on Martian soil. The habitat is the only system of its kind on a university campus in the U.S.

Dr. de León, an Argentine aerospace engineer, came to UND in 2004 from the Kennedy Space Center. An initial 9-month contract turned into a long-term commitment. “The School of Aerospace is second to none,” stated Dr. de León. “The School prides itself on entrepreneurship – we really take ownership of what we do here.”

The national platform Dr. de León helped create at UND has attracted notable aerospace partnerships and students from all over the world. It has also led to bright futures for graduates.

“I always joke that NASA and large aerospace contractors grab our graduates even before the ink is dry on their diplomas, but this is true. I am amazed at the quality of our students and the great careers they develop after they leave us,” said Dr. de León.

Pablo de Leon

UND’s Inflatable Lunar-Mars Analog Habitat was conceived, designed and created by Pablo de León.


One chair or professor can touch the lives of many through the opportunities they create for students. An endowed chair position for professors like Dr. de León will help recruit and retain the best of the best.

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