Wayne High School graduate and NASA engineer part of historic Artemis I launch

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Wayne High School graduate and NASA engineer part of historic Artemis I launch

Wayne High School graduate and NASA engineer part of historic Artemis I launch

A 2008 graduate of Wayne High School is part of NASA's Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the Moon.

Wayne High School graduate and NASA engineer part of historic Artemis I launch

Artemis I next launch attempt is at 1:04 a.m. on Wednesday, November 16

Many aspire of one day traveling to the moon, but it literally seems so far away, like being a millionaire. The world has anxiously watched, not once, but twice, as Artemis 1 prepared for lift-off, only to be delayed. Artemis 1 is a step towards eventual trips to the moon for the public. A successful mission results in the far away dreams being made true for all involved crew members. For one such crew member, Randy Eckman, his dreams of the moon which once seemed so distant is now within grasp. Eckman’s initial interest in space launched while a young boy in Dayton. 

The scientific stuff aside, as all things astrology related confuse me (how did the cow jump over the moon?) Artemis 1 represents a more personal meaning to me, all dreams are possible. If a guy that I’ve had cony dogs and ice cream with at Dairy Dream, have beaten (or at least played) Scattegories with, and went to see Donnie Baker at Wiley’s with can work at NASA and be part of such a historic launch, then anyone can do anything. Eckman is my cousin, and as a big family we’ve experienced a lot together. He’s brought a lot of pride to our bloodline and potentially hope to the entire country.

A 2008 graduate of Wayne High School, Eckman went on to attend Purdue University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. While on breaks during college, Eckman served as the planetarium operator at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery. Since 2013 he’s been employed at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. For the past two years, he’s worked in Mechanics and Trajectory Design. “Ultimately, my tiny piece of the actual mission planning puzzle is helping determine propellant budgets for each proposed date and time for launch. Because each trajectory is unique, we had to determine for each one how likely you might get off course, where, and how often…and how much propellant you would need to get back on track. Then we have to make sure we set aside enough fuel and oxidizer for that day, for that possible launch time, to ensure you still have enough leftover in order to make it home,” said Eckman. 

For Eckman to reach this point, required a lot of hard work and dedication, it didn’t happen naturally. His mind has always been advanced. For instance, when I listen to a song like ‘Tiny Dancer,’ I think the lyrics are ‘Tony Danza’ while Eckman is reciting the chords being heard and can play it back. On a more professional level, he’s sacrificed countless amounts of time and energy towards the launch but believes it’s all worth it. “We as a society have been clamoring to return to the celestial commons beyond Earth, and, though it has been a road of much personal and professional hardship and sacrifice, being a part of enabling our return to deeper space exploration will never not be rewarding,” he said.

When watching things like launches and the movie ‘Apollo 13’ I always think of the players involved, being a world away…or a galaxy away. However, Eckman is evidence that they can be from our same communities. From endlessly pursuing his dreams, the moon no longer feels so far away. Eckman hopes that Artemis 1 launches others to chase their dreams. “Dreams are important because it’s where people find inspiration for new and innovative ideas that end up changing the world or universe. I know I am lucky to have achieved my dream and acknowledge it is a privilege to get to do so. I think so many people from humble backgrounds are discouraged from dreaming, and it’s truly a lost opportunity for humanity any time that happens. I think as long as my work continues to inspire others to dream big and actually go for it, it will be important for me to continue it and show it’s possible. I’m proud to be part of the American legacy of pushing boundaries into the unknown and redefining how all humankind sees our place in the cosmos,” said Eckman.

As the Artemis 1 is scheduled to launch early tomorrow morning, November 16 at 1:04 a.m., may the dreams of others blast off, no matter how far away they seem—as with enough effort, reaching the moon can even be reached.