WINDSOR, ONT. -- A career in aerospace has taken off for a Leamington native.

For the past 13 years, Jim Ingratta has helped advance the course of human progress in space at NASA.

“It’s a really cool experience and I’m really happy to be a part of it,” says Ingratta.

Ingratta has been reaching for the stars since an early age.

“I had an interest in science, had an interest in physics and when I graduated from Cardinal Carter, I got an electrical engineering degree from the university of Windsor,” he says.

He then headed for Florida, and landed a job with NASA’s constellation program in 2007, a predecessor program that was going to return astronauts to the moon.

He’s been with the Kennedy Space Program ever since, currently working as an engineer with the commercial crew program.

“We return astronauts to the International Space Station launched from here in Florida,” says Ingratta.

The 43-year-old also worked on the Artemis Program, which is preparing to send astronauts back to the moon.

First launch is expected next year, but his proudest moment to date is the Demo 2 launch, a test flight for the Crew Dragon Spacecraft.

“I get to be on console, we’re watching all of the systems through the lead up to launch, fueling operations, crew getting in, buckled and everything,” he says.

Back in Leamington, a former high school teacher is proud of his students accomplishments.

“He was a very good student, an excellent student, an A+ student,” says Dr. Nasr Saad, who taught chemistry and physics at Cardinal Carter for 24 years.

“I hope that students everywhere, especially in this area will follow his lead,” Saad adds.

Ingratta hopes to stay with the commercial crew program for the foreseeable future, but would love to be part of a Mars mission, one day.

“I hope that other people feel encouraged and empowered to go and seek out and be part of exciting things,” says Ingratta.