S.D. native plays important role in NASA’s Artemis 1 mission

Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 1:26 PM CST
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MCINTOSH, S.D. (KFYR) – Sometimes life’s journey includes some bumps and detours. But at some point, we usually end up exactly where we’re supposed to be.

McIntosh, South Dakota native Eric Nehl can attest to that. His journey has taken him from the South Dakota prairie to the east coast, and now to his dream job working with Artemis 1.

The launch of Artemis 1 marked NASA’s return to lunar exploration.

McIntosh, S.D. native Eric Nehl documented the moment with some photos of his own.

Nehl is an electrical engineer for Aerodyne Industries and contracts with NASA.

“I work hand in hand with NASA every day,” he said.

Nehl’s company has an important role in the Artemis one mission.

“We are there in case anything goes wrong,” Nehl explained.

He was at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the launch on November 16. The next day, Nehl headed to California where he has been busy preparing for rocket recovery.

“I am in a support role for landing and recovery operations,” he explained. “If something goes wrong with it, or something needs adjusted, they call me. Until we bring the Orion home, I’ll be out here.”

It’s a long way from his childhood home, 10 miles outside the small South Dakota town of McIntosh.

“It’s a science nerd’s dream!” he laughed.

It’s a dream Nehl didn’t always know he had. After high school, he earned a criminal justice degree from the University of South Dakota. Instead of going to law school as he planned, he moved to Bismarck and eventually decided to go back to school.

“I’m good at electronics, I’m good at math. I should look into engineering,” he explained.

Five years later, he graduated from the South Dakota School of Mines with a degree in electrical engineering. That eventually took him to Florida and to his current job working with NASA.

“This is a pretty cool place to be,” he admitted.

He hopes his story might inspire his young daughter and future McIntosh High School graduates to aim for the stars.

“You can do incredible things,” Nehl said.

Orion is scheduled to return to earth with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on December 11. Nehl will be part of the crew tasked with recovering the vessel.