People of OSIRIS-REx

As OSIRIS-REx closes in on its target destination—asteroid Bennu—anticipation is building for the first-ever, close-up glimpse of this small world. It took thousands of people to come this far. Get to know a few members of the team:

1. Carl Hergenrother, Astronomy Working Group Lead & Strategic and Tactical Scientist

Job Location: University of Arizona, Tucson
Expertise: Asteroids & Comets
Time on mission: Since before there was a mission
Age: 45
Hometown: Oakland, New Jersey

“When you’re observing Bennu with a telescope, you see it as a dot. … So when it actually becomes its own little world, it’s really exciting—and almost a little sad. Up until that point, it can be anything. And now, there it is and that’s it.”

2. Heather Roper, Graphic Designer

Job Location: University of Arizona, Tucson
Job Title: Graphic Designer
Expertise: Visual Communications
Time on mission: 5 years
Age: 25
Hometown: Tucson, Arizona

“I really like the challenge of visually depicting the science of the mission and getting to show people things that we can’t see.”

3. Jason Dworkin, Project Scientist

Job Location: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
Expertise: Origin-of-life Chemistry
Time on mission: Since before there was a mission
Age: 49
Hometown: Houston, Texas

“In 10th grade, I had to do a science fair project for biology class. … I wanted to expand on chemistry experiments from old journal papers; but that could have been dangerous. I got in touch with … a pioneering scientist in origin-of-life research and asked for advice. He was worried that I would accidentally injure myself, so he invited me into his lab … that helped set my career.”

4. Sara Balram Knutson, Science Operations Lead Engineer

Job Location: University of Arizona, Tucson
Expertise: Aerospace Engineering
Time on mission: 6 years
Age: 31
Hometown: Vacaville, California

“My dad was in the Air Force, so I grew up being a bit of an airplane nerd. When I was in high school, I really liked math, science, and anything having to do with flight. I looked for a field where I could combine all those interests and I found aerospace engineering.”

5. Nancy Neal Jones, Public Affairs Lead

Job Location: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
Expertise: Science Communications
Time on mission: 7 years
Age: 51
Hometown: New York, New York

We’re going to a pristine asteroid to take a sample to bring to Earth. This means that my children and grandchildren, if they decide to go into the sciences, may have an opportunity analyze the Bennu samples.”

6. Javier Cerna, Communications System Engineer

Job Location: Lockheed Martin Corporation, Littleton, Colorado
Expertise: Electrical Engineering
Time on mission: Since before there was a mission
Age: 37
Hometown: Born in Mexico City, and raised in Los Angeles, and Las Cruces, New Mexico

One thing we do is evaluate how strong the signal from the spacecraft is—kind of like checking the strength of the WiFi connection. Basically, we’re ensuring that the link from the spacecraft to the ground, and vice versa, stays strong.”

7. Jamie Moore, Contamination Control Engineer

Job Location: Lockheed Martin Corporation, Littleton, Colorado
Expertise: Chemistry
Time on mission: 5 years
Age: 32
Hometown: Apple Valley, Minnesota & Orlando, Florida

I was there for just about every deployment of the sampling hardware to make sure it was kept clean and to evaluate the tools engineers were using. I even went to Florida with the spacecraft to make sure it stayed clean until launch.”

8. Mike Moreau, Flight Dynamics System Manager

Job Location: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland; Littleton, Colorado
Expertise: Mechanical and aerospace engineering
Time on mission: 5 years
Age: 47
Hometown: Swanton, Vermont

“I grew up on a dairy farm in Vermont, which is a world away from working for NASA. But I can trace a lot of my success as an engineer and a leader back to things that I learned on my dad’s farm.”

9. Johnna L. McDaniel, Contamination Control Specialist

Job Location: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Expertise: Anti-Contamination Cleaning
Time on Mission: 4 months
Age: 53
Hometown: Cocoa, Florida

“The clothing requirements depend on the payload. With OSIRIS-Rex, we could not wear any items made with nylon. This was because they have amino acid-based polymers in them and would have contaminated the spacecraft. I even had a special bucket for mopping.”

10. Annie Hasten, Senior Financial Analyst

Job Location: Lockheed Martin Corporation, Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Expertise: Business
Time on Mission: 1.5 years
Age: 30
Hometown: Littleton, Colorado

“I think it’s a pleasure to work with people who are so intensely passionate about their jobs. These engineers are doing their dream jobs, so you feed off of that positive energy.”

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com