CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (WOOD) — One of the engineers who helped propel a joint NASA-SpaceX mission into a six-year, 2.2 billion-mile exploration mission is a metro Grand Rapids native.
The Psyche mission rocket is headed out to explore an unusual asteroid between Mars and Jupiter. Watching it launch in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Friday was NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer Lindsey Smith.
“Leading down to those final second before launch, it really hit me that it was all real and really happening,” Smith recalled. “With about 30 second left, I started to get pretty emotional and then you hear everyone counting down that there’s only 10, 9. You start to see the smoke billowing out on the ground and then you have liftoff and you start to see the flames and then the sound hits you. It is just a surreal moment and I was just trying to take in every little bit that I could.”
Smith is a 2017 Comstock Park graduate who went on to earn a degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan. She began working on the Psyche spacecraft since 2019, initially as an intern while she finished college and later as a systems engineer. She also happens to be WOOD TV8 Community Affairs Director Casey Jones’ sister-in-law.
“I’ve always been fascinated by space,” Smith said. “I always wanted to do something with space. As a kid, I always wanted to drive the Mars rover but now as an adult, I realize that’s not how it works.”
The rocket she worked on will travel to the 16 Psyche asteroid, a body made of mostly metal that could help scientists learn more about early planetary formation.
“It’s awesome to see all of the long hours and frustration of the hundreds of people that worked on this mission finally culminate to that moment where it’s finally gone and it’s going to be actually going to the asteroid and it’s working,” Smith said.
As exciting as the launch was, it was also bittersweet, Smith said.
“Later, I watched the video back of the Psyche separation and that moment was honestly pretty sad,” she said. “It was the last time that I’ll ever see that (Psyche spacecraft) ever again, that anyone will ever see that ever again. And you see it drift off and even just after a few seconds after separation, it’s already gone into the blackness and it’s just going to be off there on its own, doing its duty.”