Astronauts Eric Boe (left) and Robert Shane Kimbrough stand with a mock-up of the Orion spacecraft at NASA s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Photo: NASA/Bill Stafford
Photo: NASA/Bill Stafford

New moon mission gets boost from Georgia Tech brainpower 

Eric A. Boe was selected by NASA to be an astronaut in 2000 and piloted two space shuttles.  A graduate of DeKalb’s Henderson High School, Boe entered the Air Force Academy to study astronautical engineering. He also holds a master's degree in electrical engineering from Georgia Tech.

Now, Boe and fellow astronaut R. Shane Kimbrough, a graduate of Lovett who also has a master’s from Georgia Tech, are working with a group of students at Tech and dozens of Georgia businesses to put the first woman and next man on the lunar surface by 2024. 

They are part of NASA’s new moon project, the Artemis program, which intends to return to the moon and potentially establish a long-term human presence there before moving on to Mars. In a guest piece today, Boe describes the importance of the project. 

After graduating from the Air Force Academy, Boe became a test pilot, flying 55 combat missions over Iraq in support of Operation Southern Watch. Before his military retirement in 2012, he logged approximately 6,000 flight hours in more than 50 aircraft. 

By Eric Boe

As one of several astronauts who is a proud alum of Georgia Tech, I’ve had the opportunity to see important contributions my fellow Georgians have always made to space exploration. 

It has now been 50 years since NASA put humans on the moon with the Apollo missions, and Georgia’s contribution to those expeditions made the journey possible, leading us to a new era of exploration.  

I know our state is proud of making our nation’s dreams of exploration become reality, and we should also be proud of our ongoing role in the space exploration program that will once again be an important moment in history we will look back on 50 years from now.  

Back in the ‘60s, educators at Georgia Institute of Technology saw far into the future, just as John F. Kennedy did, and they invested in some of the most advanced computer technology available at the time—technology the university shared with researchers at NASA to push them toward meeting Kennedy’s ambitious deadline to walk the lunar surface before the end of the decade.  

Together we have made history, and now we continue to advance our future. Today, we face another ambitious deadline to send the first woman and the next man forward to the moon in 2024 and then on to Mars with the Artemis program.  

A few weeks ago the NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine visited Georgia Tech to see the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering and the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, which will be key players in Artemis’ success.

Students at the university are working to develop some of the propulsion capabilities that will be part of Artemis 1, the first mission that will test our vehicles before we fly our crew.  

The education that astronauts Shane Kimbrough, Doug Wheelock and I received at Georgia institutions prepared us to, quite literally, shoot for the stars and be visionaries in exploration. We are excited to see the current research and contributions come to fruition. 

As we look to the future, there is still so much we don’t know about the world around us, but what we discovered from Apollo and other past missions has greatly improved life on Earth, particularly in the medical field.  

With Artemis, we are going to the moon to stay. And our vision to move beyond the moon on to Mars is a mission that is becoming a reality thanks to discoveries made by bright minds in Georgia as well. Ludjendra Ojha, the discoverer of flowing water on Mars and lead author on the report, was a student at Georgia Tech. He, along with the rest of our state, has shown the world that getting to Mars is the next step for humankind.  

Together, we are going. Together, we seek knowledge. Together, we are the Artemis generation.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.