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NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks to reporters while visiting the Michoud Assembly Facility as assembly of the core of the Artemis 1 rocket reaches the final stages in New Orleans East, La., Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019. The 212 foot-tall, 2.3 million pound liquid hydrogen and oxygen-fueled rocket will power the space agency's planned lunar mission in 2024. ORG XMIT: BAT1908151434192580

When President John F. Kennedy set the nation’s sights on landing a man on the moon and returning safely by decade’s end, the highly skilled men and women of Louisiana helped America answer the call. Neil Armstrong’s “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” was made possible by Louisiana talent.

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Louisiana has long played a critical role in U.S. space exploration. The Apollo 11 capsule that carried Armstrong was launched on a powerful Saturn V rocket built at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. This 832-acre manufacturing site continues at the forefront of human space exploration. Five decades after the Apollo missions, Louisiana is helping lead the Artemis missions — named for the twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology — to land the first woman and next man on the moon.

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NASA will send astronauts a quarter-million miles to lunar orbit aboard the Orion spacecraft with the most powerful rocket ever, the Space Launch System. SLS is the backbone for these deep-space missions. It is the only rocket capable of transporting heavy cargo and crew safely to the moon and back on a single mission.

SLS celebrates a major milestone this month as the first core stage nears completion and prepares to travel to Stennis Space Center in Mississippi for testing. Artemis Day on Dec. 9 honored this milestone as the SLS core stage moved one step closer to flying the Artemis I mission.

Programs like Apollo, Space Shuttle and Artemis also launch innovative technologies that keep our nation on the scientific forefront. We’ll explore more of the moon than ever before. We’ll also establish American leadership and a strategic presence on the moon while expanding U.S. global economic impact.

Companies like Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing, Jacobs, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman all work to design and build components for the Artemis mission. The impact of the Artemis program reaches beyond Louisiana to suppliers from all 50 states building hardware, supporting software development, and providing essential parts not just for astronauts to return to the moon, but also to live and work there. Louisiana provides the manufacturing center for this great endeavor, a center that supports thousands of jobs and catalyzes 21st-century manufacturing.

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Programs like Artemis are an engine for American manufacturing, and they also inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers who will push the boundaries. At this Artemis Day milestone, let’s honor our storied accomplishments in space as we choose to return to the moon, and explore Mars, in our greatest work yet.

DON PIERSON

secretary, Louisiana Economic Development

Baton Rouge