CAPE CORAL, Fla. — The path to fulfilling a dream takes time. It's rare that someone takes a rocket ship to success.
JC Perez knows the journey.
"You have to follow that feeling inside of you," he says. "(The feeling) that's what I want to go do."
Perez followed a feeling that led him from Cape Coral to NASA. He leads a team that will give the rest of us close-up views of the Artemis program through a series of cameras.
"Those camera systems are part of imaging," Perez says. "And that includes those video cameras the public sees, some other infrared cameras and some film cameras that we use all over, not only the perimeter of the launch pad, but also the mobile launcher."
The Artemis 1 mission will attempt to send an unmanned spacecraft around the moon. If it's successful, NASA has future missions planned to land people on the moon.
"I'm just excited to be part of the future of the kickoff of those missions," Perez says.
He always pictured himself in a role like this. Perez says growing up his head was in the clouds.
When he was in fifth grade, Perez wrote a letter to NASA for a school project, and when a NASA worker wrote back and included gifts, it sparked a dream. Perez says he looked up the requirements to be an astronaut and decided he wanted to grow up to be an engineer. So, at Trafalgar Middle School and then Cape Coral High School, he had to get serious about math. And he had to be determined.
"It just ignited that fire to, 'okay, I have to hit it hard and do well," he says.
"Oh, he did exceptionally well," Myra Walters says. Walters was his speech professor at Florida Southwestern State College.
She remembers, that right out of high school, Perez had excellent character and leadership skills.
"He could really work with a team and motivate and inspire team members to do well," Walters says.
After FSW Perez went to the University of Central Florida and graduated with a degree in Aerospace Engineering. He worked on jet engines for two years, but his dream kept calling him back to NASA.
"And I was thinking, I'm only going to look at positions in the Kennedy Space Center area. If it says Kennedy space center, I'm going," Perez says.
And he got there in 2019.
"If felt incredible," he says. "There's no words to describe how that felt."
Perez says working on Artemis makes him feel like he has a front row to the beginning of something historic.