A Cowlitz County company is one of dozens in Washington that contributed to NASA’s Artemis project to return humans to the moon.
On Wednesday, NASA’s Artemis I mission launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida with the help of Eureka! Engineering of Silver Lake.
Eureka is often hired by NASA and the agency’s contractors to help with design, operation and maintenance of the Kennedy Space Center’s unique cranes, said Neil Skogland, Eureka co-owner and crane master.
“If NASA asks us a question about crane design, operation, maintenance, anything, we’re here for them,” he said. “Normally, it’s about about electrical controls, as most of the cranes are moved by electric motors, but it could be about anything.”
Eureka is one of dozens of Washington companies that contributed to Artemis I or later missions by supplying the rocket, providing materials for the Orion spacecraft, helping develop a human landing system, working on an outpost to orbit the moon and supporting work on the ground.
Wednesday’s launch was the first uncrewed test flight of the program, designed to return humans to the moon and prepare for human exploration of Mars, according to a press release from U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell’s office.
“Today’s launch lays the groundwork for landing a woman and a person of color on the moon for the first time in history,” Cantwell said in a statement. “It also shows that Washington state remains an aerospace industry leader, with workers at 42 companies from seven different counties contributing components for the Artemis missions.”
The mission is the first flight of the NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, led by Boeing, and the second spaceflight of the Orion crew capsule, led by Lockheed Martin.
Orion, which is intended to carry astronauts, will travel to within about 60 miles of the moon’s surface, then travel thousands of miles beyond, using the moon’s gravity to help propel the craft back to Earth. Orion is expected to make a safe, precision landing off the coast of Baja, California, on Dec. 11.
Eureka has been working on NASA projects since the 1980s and doing so from its Silver Lake home office since 2011, Skogland said. The company normally works for aerospace, nuclear and hydroelectric facilities but sometimes helps neighboring paper mills with their crane machinery and control systems, he said.
“It’s both fun and gratifying to work more ‘hands on’ with industrial equipment close to home,” he said.
Skogland said his company hopes to continue working with NASA as long as it operates cranes at the Space Center.
“No rockets can be launched unless they are first delicately and precisely lifted by a crane during assembly, and in our small way we help make that step in the process happen,” he said.
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