For Gina Ladner, seeing NASA return to the Moon on Artemis missions, in preparation for the next giant leap of sending astronauts to Mars, will be a full circle moment.
The San Antonio, Texas, native remembers hearing stories from people who watched the moment NASA first set humans on the Moon.
When it happens again, Ladner will have stories of her own about contributions made from NASA’s Stennis Space Center near the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where she works as deputy chief of the site’s Facility Services Branch and where RS-25 engines that help power NASA’s powerful SLS (Space Launch System) rocket for future Artemis missions are tested.
Prior to the successful Artemis I test flight for SLS in 2022, Ladner’s work team assisted with operations for transporting and installing the SLS core stage on the B-2 Test Stand at NASA Stennis for a comprehensive test campaign.
The so-called Green Run test series culminated in March 2021 with the most powerful hot fire conducted at the south Mississippi site in more than 40 years.
“It was incredible to witness the teamwork, and I was very happy and proud to do my part,” Ladner said.
Since the first Moon landing, the agency has progressed from the Apollo era to the Artemis era, and so, too, has NASA Stennis.
Ladner, a resident of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, has had a front row seat for the evolution of NASA Stennis as she helped plan and implement projects to improve the center.
“The workplace culture at NASA Stennis is like working with family,” Ladner said. “Everyone knows each other and genuinely cares about one another. Whether you work for a contractor or are a civil servant, we treat everyone with respect. That is how we achieve cohesion in such a diverse workforce.”
Ladner appreciates how NASA values its workforce.
One such way the agency does so is by recognizing Ladner’s ethnic culture during Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
The Texas A&M graduate identifies with her Spanish/Mexican/Texan/American heritage.
“It is an opportunity for others to learn about the many different Hispanic cultures and contributions they have made to the American society we live in today,” Ladner said.
When NASA returns humans to the Moon through Artemis, Ladner will be a rapt witness.
As NASA explores more of the Moon than ever before, she also will serve as a firsthand witness, sharing stories of all her meaningful experiences working at NASA Stennis.
Photo: Gina Ladner describes herself as “a proud employee of the best place to work in all of the federal government” at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Credit: NASA/Danny Nowlin