In 2013,Mr. Olivas joined the University of Texas at El Paso as Director of the Center for the Advancement of Space Safety and Mission Assurance Research (CASSMAR) and will oversee space initiatives on campus.
NASA selected Olivas as an astronaut candidate in 1998. His astronaut training included orientation briefings and tours, numerous scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in Shuttle and International Space Station systems, physiological training and ground school to prepare for T-38 flight training, as well as learning water and wilderness survival techniques. From 1999 to 2002, he was assigned technical responsibilities within the Robotics Branch as lead for the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator Robot and the Mobile Transporter. From 2002 to 2005 he was assigned to the EVA Branch and supported the research effort focused on developing materials, tools and techniques to perform on-orbit shuttle repair. In July 2002, Olivas served as an aquanaut during the NEEMO 3 mission aboard the Aquariusunderwater laboratory. In April 2005, he was a crew member on the NEEMO 8 mission. In 2006, Olivas served as lead of the Hardware Integration Section of the Space Station Branch, responsible for ensuring proper configuration and integration of future station modules and visiting vehicles.
STS-117Atlantis (June 8–22, 2007) was the 118th Shuttle mission and the 21st mission to visit the International Space Station, delivering the second starboard truss segment, the third set of U.S. solar arrays, batteries and associated equipment. The mission also entailed the first ever on-orbit EVA repair to the Space Shuttle, Atlantis. During two spacewalks, Olivas accumulated 14 hours and 13 mins of EVA experience. The mission also delivered and returned with an ISS expedition crew member. STS-117 returned to land at Edwards Air Force Base, California, having traveled more than 5.8 million miles in 13 days, 20 hours and 20 minutes.
Olivas served as a mission specialist on space shuttle Discovery on the STS-128 mission, which launched on August 28, 2009. Discovery carried the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module filled with science and storage racks to the ISS. The mission included three spacewalks to remove and replace a materials processing experiment outside ESA'sColumbus module and return an empty ammonia tank assembly.