NASA took a giant leap back to the moon with the successful launch of Artemis I overnight, and Colorado played a big role in making the historic mission happen.
"This is really our first step to taking humans back into deep space, back to the lunar surface and eventually to Mars," said Mark Baldwin, a biomechanical engineer for Lockheed Martin.
After two hurricanes and multiple technical delays, the Artemis I mission is finally underway, and soon, the unmanned Orion capsule will take a trip around the moon.
For NASA, Wednesday's liftoff marked a historic return, but for Mark Baldwin of Highlands Ranch, it was a career accomplishment too.
"It's been super exciting personally it's been literally over a decade of personal work that I've put into this," Baldwin said.
In the years leading up to the launch, Baldwin tested and improved parts of the Orion capsule, including the seats, restraints and mannequin. His long-term focus is to make sure humans can be safe in deep space and at splashdown.
"This is really an important test flight for us to be able to flush out different aspects of the system before we put real astronauts on board," Baldwin said.
Tobias Niederwieser and his colleagues at BioServe Space Technologies, a research center within the University of Colorado Boulder's aerospace engineering department, are on a similar mission. On Thursday morning, their onboard experiment will begin.
"We are growing yeast for about four days while Orion is flying around the moon, then it's flying back," Niederwieser said.
When the capsule is back on Earth next month, they'll study the effects of deep space radiation, through similarities in yeast and human DNA.
"We have to make sure that our astronauts are safe and doing this yeast experiment is the very first step to see how long we can survive in space," he said.
Until now, the longest humans have survived in deep space is two weeks, he said. Soon, we'll know more about what's possible, thanks to the contributions of Niederwieser, Baldwin and countless other Coloradans.
"We're going to deep space again, and this is really the beginning," Baldwin said. "This is the beginning of the Artemis generation, the beginning of what will be future missions to send younger adults and kids to the moon and eventually Mars."
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