NASA engineer Felix A. Soto Toro is an expert at opening
doors. As project manager for the International Space Station
support equipment at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Fla., Soto
Toro redesigned payload module doors, so they open perfectly
once joined to the Station.

Soto Toro also opens doors on Earth by sharing his love of
science and math by mentoring students and business
professionals. He encourages them to make their dreams happen
–just as he has.

Growing up in Barrio Amelia, a suburb of Guaynabo, Puerto
Rico, Soto Toro dreamed of working for NASA and becoming an
astronaut. When he was just 6 years old, he got the idea from
a Christmas present, a rocket, given to him by a neighbor. “I
was fascinated with it, and I wanted to know how to build a
real one,” he said.

Watching the Apollo missions and the first Space Shuttle
launch on the family’s small television solidified his
decision and stirred his determination. At 17, he moved to
the United States to begin college at the Florida Institute
of Technology in Melbourne. Though learning to adapt to a
different culture, not to mention mastering the English
language, Soto Toro was able to earn a bachelor’s degree in
electrical engineering in 1990. He was first member of his
family to complete college.

While in college, he joined the co-op program at the Kennedy
Space Center, working in the Real Time Systems Laboratory,
which led to his joining NASA full-time in an electrical
engineering position. Thirteen years later, Soto Toro, still
in a “dream job” at NASA, processes and tests space flight
hardware and ground support equipment for the Space Station.

Since 1986, he also has worked with KSC’s Public Affairs
Office as an educational and professional mentor to more than
50 individuals. For his time, effort and successes in helping
others, he’s been awarded NASA’s Exemplary Mentor to
Minorities Award and the Kennedy Center’s Management
Association Education Outreach Award.

“I love the challenges of what NASA is doing, enhancing the
planet we live on and helping us have a better life by
exploring space,” Soto Toro says. “It’s very rewarding to
work with such creative people and to learn from them and
share the knowledge I’ve gained,” he said.

While climbing the steps of his career, Soto Toro has always
made a point of helping others pursue their career goals. In
college, he mentored other Puerto Rican students, helping
them learn the ropes of coming to America, going to college
and starting careers in science and technology. Today, you
can still find him in high school and college classrooms —
in Florida and Puerto Rico, sharing his excitement for
science at NASA, and encouraging students to aim high. His
service to his native country has twice earned him the Puerto
Rican Role Model Award, given by the Puerto Rican school
system to honor citizens who contribute to the lives of

“I’m so thankful for the opportunities I have had,” Soto Toro
said. “I want to push students to be creative, to know big
dreams can happen if students continuously challenge

Soto Toro leads by example. While juggling his many duties at
KSC, he has continued to challenge himself to open new doors.
He has made time to complete a master’s degree in engineering
management from the Florida Institute of Technology, as well
as master’s and doctorate degrees in electrical engineering
from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. His goal
is to become a mission specialist candidate for NASA’s
Astronaut Corps.

He’s well on his way. He passed the first applicant
screening, and hopes to be called back for an interview. NASA
will announce its new class of astronauts in December.

“I’ve seen first-hand the opportunities that open up to you
when you are willing to step outside your world. In my case,
when I was just a teenager, I stepped outside my world, my
neighborhood, to pursue my goals in life,” Soto Toro said.

Media organizations interested in interviewing Soto Toro
should contact Tracy Young, KSC Public Affairs, at: 321/867-