RANCHO CORDOVA (CBS13) — The successful landing of NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover could not have happened without help from rocket scientists in Sacramento.
Aerojet Rocketdyne in Rancho Cordova has been a part of all NASA’s missions to Mars, and on Thursday, their decades of work paid off.READ MORE: State Water Officials Preparing To Make Emergency Cutbacks To Growers And Ranchers
Before the Perseverance Mars Rover could ever touch down safely on the red planet, it had to blast off from earth last July using rockets built in Sacramento.
David Daniewicz is an engineer at Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Rancho Cordova facility. He was closely following Thursday’s live feed from Mars.
“It is a thrill of a lifetime,” Daniewicz said. “The pressure and anxiety, the stress levels are through the roof, but the relief when it works is amazing.”
The four solid rocket motors were designed and tested in Rancho Cordova. They could be seen strapped to the side of the Atlas Five Rocket that carried the Perseverance into space.
“We did everything here from initial concept design, went through all the design reviews, did all the fabrication work here, did all the testing here,” Daniewicz said. “Some of the older viewers might remember test firings we did out at the Sacramento site, where this big booster which is belching smoke and fire, it was pretty impressive.”
Nearly 20,000 people once worked at Aerojet’s Sacramento headquarters during the height of the space race when they helped in the Apollo missions that landed men on the moon.READ MORE: Woman Drowns At Shrinking Folsom Lake, Leaving Young Nephew Alone on Shore
“It’s a big source of pride, I think, for the local community,” Daniewicz said.
Only about 300 workers remain today.
“There is a group of about 30 plus engineers, and of course I’m one of them, who still work here,” he said.
David is now working on the Orion Spaceflight Program, a deep space mission that will be capable of sending humans back to the moon and Mars.
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“It’s currently slated for late 2021 if all goes well,” he said.
It’s today’s cutting-edge space exploration with Sacramento roots dating back decades.
“You pour your heart and soul into this project and this endeavor, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Daniewicz said.MORE NEWS: Illegal Dumping Laws Not Being Enforced Along Tuolumne River As Trash Piles Up
Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Los Angeles facility also played a critical role in the mission. They built the plutonium battery that powers the Perseverance rover.