NASA center in Sandusky will test future Mars missions

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You’ve heard of Cape Canaveral... and “Houston, we have a problem."

But did you know there's a NASA station in our own backyard?

Designed with an out-of-this-world purpose, Plum Brook isn't in a galaxy far, far away. The space base sits on 6,400 acres in the woods around Sandusky.

“Four world-unique test facilities. And a 100-megawatt power grid. The biggest east of the Mississippi that doesn't interfere with our friends and neighbors here,” Brigadier general David Stringer said. He is the director of the Plum Brook Station.

But why here? There’s a port access, lots of land, and an explosive origin.

“In November of '41, they were producing TNT on this site,” Stringer said. “And then the site sat idle, until they broke ground for a nuclear reactor in 1955.”

Plum Brook director David Stringer says that's when NASA got involved, and they've tested the Mars Rovers, Atlas rockets, pieces of the space station and more ever since.

“It's a testimony to the 105 people that work here, that we have so many different things that we can do with these facilities,” Stringer said.

Down the block, NASA has something even bigger, its space chamber.

“About the same volume as the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, Ben. And what this allows us to do is to test the spacecraft in the cold and vacuum of space,” Stringer said.

Including the new Orion.

“Orion is our new, cutting edge capsule that we're going to send humans into space,” Jimi Russell said.

NASA’s Russell says we have a rich history of Ohioans in space; 25 astronauts are from here.

“So I think it's really exciting that Ohio, and Plum Brook, and Glenn - we get to participate in sending humans back out into space, whether it's back to the moon, or we're reaching for Mars,” Russell said.

Next week on Action News, we take you inside the lab where the Orion was - and will be – tested. It’s more tech you'll only find at Plum Brook, and that you'll only see on 13abc.