"If Pittsburgh can land on the Moon, we can do anything,” said John Thornton, the CEO of Astrobotic.By Meghan Schiller

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — From the North Side to the North Pole of the moon, one Pittsburgh company’s lunar lander plans to touch down in 2021.

KDKA’s Meghan Schiller landed an exclusive tour inside Astrobotic, along with a sneak peek at Pittsburgh’s Mission Control.

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“Our first mission lands on the moon at a place called Lacus Mortis, which is right up here on the surface of the moon,” said John Thornton, the CEO of Astrobotic.

It’s no longer just Houston and Cape Canaveral, Pittsburgh wants a slice of that pie in the sky.

“Thirteen years in the making,” said Thornton. “Astrobotic was not built overnight. It was built over lots of sweat, blood and tears and frustrations along the way.”

Thornton invited guests for the grand opening of his new 47,000 square-foot-facility, equipped to build and test moon landers and rovers. It even boasts a mission control center to operate the lunar technology straight from the 412.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

“We were actually offered millions of dollars to go and build up our capabilities in other states,” said Thornton.

But this Carnegie Mellon University graduate wanted to stay in Pittsburgh.

“We are committed to Pittsburgh. We like it here and we get good support from the city and the state,” Thornton said.

Local leaders know this company’s successful trip to the moon in 2021 means out of this world possibilities for the local economy.

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“What it really means for all of us is a lot of jobs for the people in western Pennsylvania,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “Whether you’re the software engineers or whether you’re the person going to be fixing things or building things or helping to craft the parts that are needed.”

Astrobotic’s success even attracted the United States Secretary of Commerce.

“In one year, from 15 (employees) to they told us today, 100 people,” said Sec. Wilbur Ross.

Sec. Ross thinks space travel fits Pittsburgh.

“If space becomes a new driver of your economy, that will kind of be your third reinvention,” said Sec. Ross.

Half the people alive in America today weren’t born when we landed on the moon. But did you know Pittsburgh played a role in the Apollo, too?

“During the Apollo program, Westinghouse and ALCOA were very involved and played a similar role. So now in the next generation of the space race, Pittsburgh is back,” said Rep. Conor Lamb.

Back with a $200 million contract from NASA, it’s the first commercial flight to the moon.

“We hope with this mission, Pittsburgh and our region and our country can see that anything is possible even in the midst of a global pandemic. If Pittsburgh can land on the moon, we can do anything,” said Thornton.

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Meghan Schiller