INDIANAPOLIS - Representatives from the state joined members from the NASA Space Launch System (SLS), Orion and Ground Systems programs to celebrate Indiana's aerospace and defense industry.

Executive Director of the Indiana Aerospace and Defense Council Ryan Metzing says there are more than a dozen small to medium-sized companies, from Evansville to South Bend, that are playing a significant role in America’s future in deep space, specifically designing and manufacturing hardware that will fly on the inaugural flight of the Orion spacecraft. 

"I think the neat thing is we know we have a physical spacecraft that is being built right now that is the most powerful rocket in the world, and Indiana companies are contributing to that," said Metzing. "It is a physical representation of the hard work Indiana is contributing to this from a manufacturing standpoint. That's a lot of blood, sweat and tears from these companies around the state."

Indiana Economic Development President Elaine Bedel, who spoke at the event told the audience "the road to Mars goes through Indiana."

Indiana has consistently been ranked as one of the top state's for aerospace manufacturing in the country. And according to Metzing, one particular university has given the state a "natural advantage."  

"Purdue to this day still has graduated more NASA astronauts than any other university," said Metzing. "That is a huge asset when you talk about anything NASA related. That, combined with some of the supply chain companies that are already here with proven experience in this sector, really kind of makes Indiana a unique place where you can find quality companies, quality workers, the whole mix."