University of Phoenix is celebrating the achievement of an alumnus who has brought innovative holoportation technology to medicine in space. Doctor Fernando De La Peña Llaca is the CEO and president of AEXA Aerospace, a multidisciplinary company providing creative training solutions through augmented and virtual reality. A partnership with NASA scientists saw AEXA develop a cutting-edge 3D version of telemedicine, culminating in a successful mission in October 2021 that involved a NASA surgeon, based on Earth, projected live to astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS).
Holoportation Training Solutions for NASA
For years, AEXA Aerospace has worked on an astronaut and payload specialist training application that utilizes holoportation for NASA. The technology works by overlaying holograms onto existing hardware and tools. It can also employ avatars of users working remotely to project them into a different environment.
In 2016, Doctor De La Peña Llaca and his company celebrated the successful completion of a holoportation demonstration with NASA. AEXA’s technology allowed a NASA surgeon in Houston, Texas to remotely assist an astronaut working from NASA’s undersea training habitat in Florida. Following feedback from the surgeon about the suitability of avatars and alternative options, Doctor De La Peña Llaca claimed that, given time, AEXA could teleport the surgeon to the ISS via holograph. The new project went ahead, and five years later, in the fall of 2021, the resulting ISS mission was a triumph.
Holoportation technology is currently most often found in the fields of engineering, business and telemedicine, which use technology to deliver medical care from a distance. However, Doctor De La Peña Llaca and AEXA Aerospace hope to launch the application for commercial use as a communications tool by the third quarter of 2022. The goal is for everyone, whether on or off the planet, to harness the power of holoportation.
The Effects of Social Isolation
Throughout his impressive 28-year career, which has seen him lead various technology companies, Doctor De La Peña Llaca has always had a passion for space exploration. As an undergraduate student studying engineering, he designed and patented a spacecraft engine propelled by anti-matter. He received patents for other designs too, including a space launcher that employed magnetic levitation. In 2010, he achieved a Discovery Channel Prize for his work with the Mexican Space Agency.
In 2012, Doctor De La Peña Llaca began a master’s degree in information systems with University of Phoenix, and, in the same year, he launched AEXA Aerospace. A doctorate followed the master’s program, which he completed at the start of 2022. His dissertation, “Holographic teleportation in space and astronauts’ stress,” defined the best practices for using holoportation technology to benefit astronauts experiencing social isolation. Social isolation is a concern for those who work aboard the ISS, as many astronauts live in a closed space station for up to 12 months at a time with no way of seeing friends or families except over video call.
Doctor De La Peña Llaca explains how living through the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us all first hand the damaging impact of extended isolation and its negative side effects. One of these is a loss of performance, a particular concern for astronauts. Though holoportation is new to the space industry, he believes that it could relieve some of the side effects brought about by long-term isolation. This would be especially pertinent during missions lasting weeks, or even months, such as trips to the moon or Mars.
Putting Theory Into Practice
As a University of Phoenix alumnus, Doctor De La Peña Llaca boasts impressive credentials. He sits on the board of directors for the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership (BAHEP) and serves as chief of the Cross-Sector Council in Houston, the Infragard Defense Industrial Base SIG. He also works with the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce as its aerospace liaison. Doctor De La Peña Llaca’s excellence has earned him various accolades including the Small Business Administration award and Small Business Champion of the Year, Houston District.
Doctor De La Peña Llaca is also the former president of the Space City Houston chapter of the National Contract Management Association (NCMA) at NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC). Plus, he chaired the Communications Committee of the JSC National Management Association and is the former chairman of the JSC Small Business Council.
He acknowledges how his time with University of Phoenix helped him become more analytic and tune his mind into “research mode,” enabling him to innovate better solutions in his work to develop training applications. He credits his University mentor, Doctor Phillip Davidson, with providing crucial support in the writing of his dissertation.
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