HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (KDVR) — Lockheed Martin engineers in Colorado were thrilled to watch the launch of the Artemis I mission from Kennedy Space Center in Florida Wednesday. 

“Oh my gosh it was so surreal, such an exciting and historic day,” said Heather McKay, the systems engineer manager at Lockheed Martin in Highlands Ranch.

She watched from Colorado with a great sense of pride. 

“I personally worked on the propulsion system and the launch support system, that safety system. Lockheed Martin in Denver plays a huge role in the Artemis program, we’re the prime contractor to NASA building the Orion spacecraft. We build several of the key structural components in the avionics, which are the computers, right here in Littleton. We also do some of the system-level testing both for the spacecraft structure, as well as for the software to qualify it for flight. So real exciting day for Colorado and our aerospace industry,” McKay said.

The propulsion engineer said she’s worked on the Orion team preparing for this mission for more than a decade. 

“It’s been just a rollercoaster of emotions, excitement and nerve-racking, and then calm, proud. I think that’s how it’s going to be over the next 26 days,” McKay said. 

The craft will travel around the moon and back. There are no astronauts on board, this is a test flight before the crewed missions begin.

“I’m just excited to see how all the systems perform. We want to check out our avionics in deep space to see how they do in the radiation environment, check out our crew life support systems,” she said.

McKay points out this is the beginning of the Artemis generation and our return to the moon. She has a great sense of pride and wonder, knowing that NASA just took a big step toward deep space exploration. 

“Knowing that our fingerprints are going to deep space and back — you really can’t beat that feeling,” she said. 

In the next few years, the Artemis II mission will send astronauts around the moon. In 2025, Artemis III is scheduled to land two astronauts near the moon’s south pole.