Future’s So Bright: Stennis Space Center looking ahead to next projects

The Artemis project to send humans back to the moon, and eventually to Mars, is the centerpiece, and it’s a source of pride for Stennis Space Center.
Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 10:29 PM CDT
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HANCOCK COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - Stennis Space Center is celebrating its 60th anniversary so we are taking a look this week at how far they’ve come and the strides they’re set to make to further space exploration.

NASA publicly announced plans to open the rocket engine testing facility in Hancock County on Oct. 25, 1961. The decision was in response to a bold call by President John F. Kennedy to send humans to the moon and bring them back safely.

There is no doubt that NASA’s rocket engine testing is still the bread and butter for Stennis Space Center.

The Artemis project to send humans back to the moon, and eventually to Mars, is the centerpiece for the facility and a source of pride for Stennis Space Center associate director Mary Byrd.

“I’m very excited about that and actually seeing, going back to the moon. I mean, it’s enabled me to reflect back on my childhood and now I’m able to share those experiences with my grandchildren,” said Byrd.

One of the newest technologies that will help make it possible is autonomous systems. Simply put, the programs are designed to become self-aware, which is good to have with deep space travel.

“It’s really not interactions,” said NASA technology development chief Dawn Davis. “The system itself uses strategies to kind of mitigate any type of unforeseen events so they can still achieve the goals.”

Davis said this is why she’s still excited to work at the agency.

“I’m excited about the future of Stennis and, really, the work we’re doing at Stennis,” she said. “I see where we are going through as an agency and what Stennis can contribute to that mission.”

The iconic test stands developed for the Apollo mission are still at work testing the RS-25 engines that will take us back to the moon.

Stennis’ future includes partnering with current private aerospace companies - mostly at the center’s E-Test complex. Davis said those companies have benefited from NASA technology.

“I think we’re all rooting for them to succeed because I think we want space to be open to everyone,” said Davis.

While engine testing continues to be the centerpiece, Stennis has been developing a new sense of itself.

“At a time when NASA was kind of finished with the Apollo program, there was a time when we really didn’t have any mission, per se,” Byrd said. “So to keep Stennis viable, the federal city was created.”

Stennis Space Center now has more than 50 government and private agencies with more to come through its Strategic Business Development Office, all of which have created a more than $650 million economic impact in the region.

“We have so much to be proud of here at Stennis Space Center,” Byrd said. “You know, all of our missions, the missions of our tenants, as well as our family here at Stennis.”

Byrd added that the first Artemis launch is expected by the end of the year or the beginning of 2022.

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