NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — For NASA to successfully launch the “Psyche” spacecraft toward an asteroid that’s orbiting the Sun, Lance Landrum said it would be like throwing a “lasso” to capture a racehorse — the spacecraft had to align perfectly with a moving target.

“Imagine standing inside of the track at the Fairgrounds with a lasso in your hands,” Landrum said in an email. “Your job is to lasso one of the racehorses. You know you will only have a few seconds to accomplish this task when everything is lined up perfectly. If you miss, then you have to wait for the horses to come back around the track.”

On Friday, Oct. 13, at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA’s timing worked, and the Psyche spacecraft is heading toward an asteroid, also named “Psyche,” 1.5 billion miles away.

If all continues to go as planned, the spacecraft will reach the asteroid in 2029, and the asteroid’s gravity will pull the spacecraft into its orbit.

According to NASA, the Psyche mission will gather information about the asteroid’s origin and composition. NASA says the asteroid’s “metal-rich” exterior is similar to the core of the Earth, making the mission a good way to glean information about how planets like Earth are formed.

Landrum, who graduated from Ben Franklin High school in New Orleans in 2003, is a NASA “Guidance, Navigation and Control Engineer” — a role he never envisioned when he got out of high school.

He says it was a “lost and wandering time” in his life, so he joined the Army, wanting to “see the world,” before realizing his tour of duty would be limited to desolate places like Afghanistan and Iraq.

But as member of the Army’s Military Intelligence Systems, Landrum learned about sophisticated computer software, satellite communication, GPS, and other technical skills that he uses today at NASA.

After the Army, Landrum backpacked in the western states, still unsure of his life’s path. He spent time learning to teach yoga at an ashram near Montreal, became a kid’s counselor and did other odd jobs until he got an electrical engineering degree from the University of Southern Florida in Tampa.

While he was there, an internship at Kennedy Space Center led to the start of his career.

“We send missions all over the solar system to get a better understanding of our universe,” said Landrum, “but also we learn so much about our own planet and our own home. It is truly remarkable what we are able to accomplish when we work together.”

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