(WDTN) — Randy Eckman was born and raised in Huber Heights, and is now playing a crucial role in NASA’s return to the moon.

“Just as long as I have had conscious thought, I’ve always been really fascinated with space,” Eckman said.

Eckman is a trajectory analyst at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, and is working on the Artemis 1 mission. He and his team play a crucial role in making sure the spacecraft makes it to the moon and back.

“My team is responsible for both the nominal mission and the planned mission, assuming everything goes right, but then also making sure that we have plans to come back home safely at every point along the way as well,” Eckman said.

It is now a dream come true for Eckman to be working on an historic mission that will eventually send humans back to the moon for the first time in 50 years.

“What I was inspired by as a kid was the missions to the moon, the Apollo missions. Neil Armstrong was a huge influence early on in my life. And I chose to go to Purdue because that’s where Neil Armstrong went to college. I’ve always wanted to be part of going back to the moon, and it’s really great to actually be getting to be part of that,” Eckman said.

Eckman graduated from Wayne High School, and earned a degree from Purdue University. He credits a lot of people for helping him get to where he is now, including Theodore Kleiser.

Kleiser taught Eckman at Weisenborn Junior High. He said he knew right from the start that Eckman was going to go far.

“He was a excellent student and self-motivated. So I’m not surprised that he’s in the position he’s in right now,” Kleiser said.

Kleiser said he will never forget his time in the classroom with Eckman, encouraging him to take high-school level math courses in 7th and 8th grades. He said he knows this is just the beginning of a long and successful career for Eckman.

“He’s a very impressive young man. So it was my honor to be able to see him,” Kleiser said.

Eckman also said living in the Dayton area, with its deep roots in aviation, pushed him towards his career at NASA.

“I grew up all around the people that worked at the air force base. And I knew that the Neil Armstrong Museum was just up the road a bit in Wapakoneta, and then the the Air Force Museum as well. Just a lot of really great resources for learning about how flight works in the atmosphere,” Eckman explained.

As he and team prepare for the next launch window, it is not lost on Eckman just how important this work is to the future of space exploration.

“It kind of hit me that this is not just a bunch of numbers and it’s not like homework problems from science class. We’re actually doing these calculations for a mission that’s going to launch to the moon,” Eckman said.

Once the Artemis 1 mission is complete, Eckman plans to take some much needed time off before getting to work on Aretmis 2, which will take humans to the moon.