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MSU Billings professor says Artemis 1 launch a new era in space exploration

artemis launch
Posted at 8:32 AM, Nov 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-21 10:32:01-05

On Wednesday, the launch of Artemis 1 was successful in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and while that may seem far away from Montana, some people in Billings know how impactful this mission might be.

Dr. Elaine Westbrook is an assistant professor at Montana State University Billings. She used to teach astronomy in Florida, so she is no stranger to rockets launching into space.

“I would take my high school kids out onto the stadium and watch the launch," Westbrook said. "You could see the trail. We could hear sometimes when the shuttle would come in."

To her, the successful launch of Artemis 1 means the beginning of an exciting new process.

“It means we’re going to Mars," Westbrook said. "That’s what this means, and I don’t think anybody has put that into perspective yet."

Artemis 1 is the first of three stages. The second launch will hold astronauts and the third will begin establishing a base on the moon. The goal after that is to work on ways to get humans to Mars.

Westbrook has actually known about this mission since 2006. She took her Girl Scout troop on a tour of the Kennedy Space Center and received a patch representing NASA's plans.

“That was the first time I heard about this mission," Westbrook said. "That patch shows the Earth, the moon, and the red planet."

Space Badge

Florence Gold lives in Billings but works for a program called NASA Hunch, which gives high school students the opportunity to build pieces of different spacecrafts. Gold said it's been a long wait for America to return to the moon.

“I’m old enough to see the Apollo mission, the first walk on the moon (in 1969), and this is the first start back,” Gold said.

And few people in the Billings area are more excited than Gold. She said the advancements in space travel will benefit us at home.

“For us to even think about going back to the moon and thinking about living on the moon, that’s going to change everybody’s life on Earth,” Golden said.

And who knows? This new era of space exploration might end up with Americans finding a new home in outer space.

"We're working on living on the moon," Gold said. "We want a continuous presence on the moon, which is huge."