Archive for July, 2009

Hugo, In Stories…

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

The following is from Hugo’s memorial service. I don’t know the name of the person who put this together and I hope s/he will not be upset with me for repeating them:

Hugo was this powerfully colorful and energetic force in the universe. He was a ‘supernova’ here on Earth, best described in these stories I’ll now share.

From Larry : I remember during early Shuttle processing Hugo was a co-op and worked in the Digital Processing System (DPS). As I recall he provided a lot of the brainpower and emphasis behind a very valuable checkout program that ran on the launch processing system (LPS) called VAB 59. What it did was give an overall health status of the Orbiter DPS communications capability which included all 8 flight critical busses and all the bus terminal units such as all Flight Aft and Flight Forward MDM’s, EMEC’s and MEC’s and other important DPS hardware, such as the GPC’s, PCMMU’s and MMU’s. The reason it was so important in the early Shuttle checkout days, was we had a lot of issues with the fly-by-wire system DPS provided in talking from the ground LPS to the onboard computers and out to the end effectors such as the elevons thru the Flight Critical MDM’s. As I recall Hugo and Judy  were the main players for developing this critical program. It is most likely still being used today. I always wanted Hugo around close by during my days as an Orbiter PE because he was so gifted with a lot of brain power and the ability to communicate with “dummies” like me so I could understand and report up and down the chain.

Hugo served as the Lead Project Engineer for the Space Shuttle Endeavour, OV105, over her first six missions, including the capture and repair of the Intel Satellite and the first Hubble repair mission.

From the OV105 team (Pepper , Dave , Eric , Tip ): Hugo was emotionally attached to 105/Endeavour….he assured us that it was all “romantic” (his word) as we fought thru that first flow. Each time things would get tough….Hugo would again remind us of the “romance” of it all….Hugo always saw things thru his considerable heart as well as his intellect.

Hugo was the technical leader of our team. It was truly an amazing feat to take delivery of the incomplete Endeavour on May 7 in 1991, then exactly one year later launch the vehicle on May 7 of 1992. We inspected the vehicle front to back, we tested every connector pin and vehicle function, completed the installation of some systems, and picked up, worked, and closed over 3000 Problem Reports during that first flow. We couldn’t have done all of that without Hugo’s energy, dedication and commitment to what we were doing. He was a daily inspiration to all of us. He was our cheerleader, a great source of humor, but always the faithful spirit behind our efforts. Several of us over years still commemorate that special time and first launch of Endeavour. This year was no different. We circulated e-mails around among our team on May 7. Even though fighting his illness, Hugo joined in and was characteristically upbeat and complimentary to the whole.

Hugo’s e-mail to the team read:

From: Delgado, Hugo M.
Sent: Thursday, May 07, 2009 1:24 PM
Subject: RE: OV-105 Anniversary

Wow – How cool seeing this distribution list!…. Pepper- I can’t find the snake anymore… Eric – it is water over the bridge…. Look forward to having an Anejo with all of you soon,


Hugo also new how to celebrate…

One of the many evenings we spent after-hours socializing with the team in Lancaster during the 105 ( Endeavour) factory turnover, Hugo (after a few Anejo’s) took the Karaoke stage and attempted to sing “La Bamba”. Unfortunately he only knew those two words, and couldn’t read the screen for the others. But he wouldn’t quit….just passionately repeating “La Bamba” over and over with different tones and inflections as the music changed… you might expect, his friends rained down verbal tomatoes….and we never let him forget it.

We had a tradition demanded by Hugo….after every successful launch of Endeavour, the few of us in lead positions would lock ourselves in a certain office in the LCC and celebrate with Anejo toasts while the beans and cornbread party carried on outside. He considered Anejo as a gift from God thru the Cuban people….to him a sacrament. It was a fitting send-off for Endeavour on her Missions.

During the OPF flows of Endeavour, Eric kept a whiteboard in his office that collected “Hugoisms”….he was our Yogi Berra for his ability to originate malapropisms, and there were new ones every day. We wish we’d kept that board, or at least copied it- they were classics. For Hugo, a past situation was either “water under the dam” or “water over the bridge”. Once Tip used an old Tennessee saying about laziness directed toward someone who we couldn’t seem to get off the dime…The real saying goes like this: ”he wouldn’t strike a lick at a snake if it was getting ready to bite him”. In his own way, Hugo managed to (almost) use that a couple of weeks later in a similar situation….referring to someone as “he wouldn’t lick a snake!”

Following a landing of Endeavour at Edwards, Tip was asked to escort the Dryden Research Center Director to the Orbiter for a walk-around of the vehicle. As they got into the government car and the Director settled in, Tip found the driver’s seat fully forward against the steering wheel. Try as he might, he could not adjust it back. Glancing over at the hangar, he discovered Hugo and others in hysterics watching the floundering…..and later found out that Hugo had driven the power seat forward and unplugged the connector…and had a terrific laugh.

When Endeavour landed at Edwards after one of her missions, Hugo rode on the pathfinder with the ferry flight back. The weather ahead was pretty bad, so after the first leg the SCA stayed in El Paso. Hugo decided that he would escort the KSC “Gringos” over to Juarez, Mexico from the SCA’s overnight stop in El Paso, TX. After a few hours of introducing the KSC team to the local culture and a “few” Anejo’s at The Kentucky Club, the group headed back to the border for return to El Paso. Hugo was the first to approach the checkpoint. The border patrol asked Hugo if he was a citizen of the U.S. Hugo, suddenly realizing that he only had his American Express card with him….he didn’t have another ID…no wallet, no passport, no drivers license. Here was a proud Cuban American man wearing his guayabera trying to steal his way into America with nothing but an American Express card. As he began to fumble for any possible ID that he could find, the rest of the group began to file thru the checkpoint, one stopped to ask Hugo what was wrong. Obviously flustered, he responded “I don’t have my driver’s license or badge, only my AmEx card…so I can’t get back to the U.S.” After some stalling while his KSC “friends” enjoyed Hugo stressing over his inability to ably return to his home country, they informed him that all that was required was a “yes” response to the “are you a citizen of the U.S.” question…and he would be permitted to pass. He later freely told several of us about this event, which was typical of Hugo – always self deprecating, always the first to laugh at himself. BUT, of course we had to have a little ceremony in the Endeavour scheduling meeting, making light of the whole situation. We presented Hugo his very own oversized green card, in the event he ever had need of it again. He laughed with all of us, and then deadpanned, I had a green card: the American Express card.

On another Ferry Flight and expedition into Juarez, Hugo in the lead chose the Kentucky Club just across the border bridge. Tip was not along. Not knowing that Tip’s mother had lived in El Paso for 25+ years, or that he and his brother were long-time frequenters of the Kentucky Club since 1968, Hugo struck up a conversation with the bartender/manager – Lorenzo– of course portraying his group as “rocket scientists from NASA”. He was dumbfounded when the bartender asked: “Do you know Tip Tip received an immediate and animated call from Hugo….wanting to know if there was anywhere he could go to get away from him.

From Craig : My favorite memory of Hugo was from the KSC All-American picnic back in the early 105 processing days. The picnic was winding down, and there were some of us wandering around looking for something else to do while we finished the keg. After having witnessed the three legged race in the KSC Olympics (or whatever it was called) earlier that afternoon, Hugo decided that the race was mere child’s play, and threw down a challenge to John Ringelberg and me to a race against himself and Brian . Executing the race was a challenge pretty much from the get-go, having a hard time even just tying our legs together without falling over. We made up a makeshift course. For part of it, we had to go around a tree and come back. Boy, was that a bad idea. I remember Hugo and Brian each trying to take the opposite direction around the tree and smashing into it. Even in the straight-aways, neither team could make it more than a few feet without falling down, all the while ribbing each other and shouting supremacy while laughing hysterically. It was a great end to a fun day, and it symbolizes to me Hugo’s infectious spirit and love of life.

From Tip: Hugo was ever the optimist. He had a real belief that he was going to win the lottery, every week. When it started he was like a kid at Christmas, and never lost that hope. Kinda fits with his belief in his country… Each time Dave tried to explain the math to him, the probability, he just shook him off with “it’s cheap hope”, and bounced away smiling…

Many a time, as Hugo and I would sit and just talk, he would marvel at how his life’s dream had come true, and he was now a key part of NASA and humans in space. Then he would launch into his next dream…..CASA, the Cuban Aeronautics And Space Administration. “When Cuba is liberated….” He wanted to found and lead a space organization based in his country of birth—-and if you knew Hugo, you knew that it was not at all an unreasonable dream.

I always teased Hugo about being a “New American”, though always in respect and awe of his belief in this country’s ideals of right and wrong. To Hugo it was a patriotic duty, not just conscience that required that we do the right thing. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who believed so deeply, and without any doubts, in all that this country is meant to stand for.

Over the last 30 years, Hugo served this country as an outstanding leader for NASA, dedicating his career to the success of Human Spaceflight. Tonight, the astronaut crew of STS 127 will fly a commemorative flag in his honor on OV105/Endeavour.

Hugo, we love you Pal.

Goodbye, Old Friend

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Back in January, I wrote about a friend of mine battling cancer. This was my friend, Hugo, who passed away just yesterday having lost the struggle. As sad as I am about losing a good friend, I am doubly sad for being thousands of miles away, in Tokyo, unable to fly home for his service.

Hugo was part of a group of guys with which I’d kept in touch since high school (Miami Senior High, Class of 1977). We were the self-proclaimed “Beer Club” whose purpose was self-evident. In spite of our simple charter, for some reason, the group kept in touch. Most remained in Miami. Hugo moved up to Melbourne, FL where he worked at NASA. I moved out to the West coast. Whenever I visited Miami, however, my friend Oscar would find an excuse for a party and the Beer Club would convene in his back yard to smoke cigars, play dominoes and, of course, drink beers.

Over the course of 32 years, we’ve buried lots of parents, survived a few divorces and had the occasional health scare but Hugo is the first of us to die, way too early.

There are many characters in the club. All of us are successful in our fields. All of us are good, loyal, friends who would do anything to help the others. Hugo, however, stood out. Of all of us, he was unquestionably the gentlest, nicest, guy in the group. I don’t remember him every saying anything bad about anyone. He was a loyal husband, considerate of his wife. He was a devoted father to his only child. He was respectful and kind to our spouses, children and families.

Of all of us, he was least deserving of this fate.

Goodbye, Hugo. I am a better person for having known you. Today, I drank an extra beer or three in your memory.