KUSA - A label saying "Made in Colorado" should be attached to the spacecraft Osiris Rex.
Another saying "Designed in Colorado" should be added to the Atlas V Rocket.
It should come as no surprise that the Centennial State plays such a large role in space exploration.
On Thursday, Osiris Rex began its mission to sample an asteroid.
It will spend the next four years traveling to the space rock Bennu.
Once there, the spacecraft will gather gravel that could hold clues to the origin of life - and then begin its three year trek back to earth.
Colorado is playing a huge role and has for years.
The rocket that launched Thursday was designed by United Launch Alliance engineers in Centennial.
Osiris Rex, the spacecraft that will scoop dust from the asteroid, was built in Littleton by Lockheed Martin.
All this comes on the heels of the successful Juno mission to Jupiter, also a Lockheed and ULA achievement.
So in the space world, Colorado's kind of a big deal.
“Currently, it’s our ability to attract a highly-qualified workforce,” Vicky Lea with the Colorado Space Coalition said. “So for our aerospace employers, a high quality, educated workforce is imperative.”
You can partly thank Millennials.
They are the lifeblood of eight major space contracting companies in the state.
“Colorado is unique that we're the only major aerospace state without a NASA center,” Lea said. “So perhaps that's why people don't attribute Colorado as an aerospace state."
The industry has generated 162,000 space-related jobs.
The average salary is $129,000 a year.
The coalition says Colorado's fascination with space was born out of fear of the Russians.
“Back in the 1950s at the height of the Cold War, the Glenn Martin company actually established operations in Waterton Canyon which was a very secure location to develop Titan missiles,” Lea said.
The mountains, she says, were out of the USSR's reach. A few years later, the Air Force Academy was established. Then came other military space installations and high tech companies.
Colorado's fascination with the skies hasn't stopped.
Look no further than Osiris Rex to see the proof that in Colorado, we don't have a problem.
The Colorado Space Coalition says, the aerospace industry brings in approximately 3$.2 billion in payroll to the state annually.
Some of that money went to the folks who help built that rocket and Osiris Rex that launched into space this evening.
Copyright 2016 KUSA