Spaceflight Insider

OSIRIS-REx – the human factor

NASA press conference held the day before the launch of the space agency's OSIRIS-REx mission.

NASA press conference held the day prior to the launch of the space agency’s OSIRIS-REx mission. Photo Credit: Jim Siegel / SpaceFlight Insider

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Whenever launches or other events take place at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida they provide some impressive sights. Towering rockets, shiny spacecraft, complex systems, and so on. However, as the recent launch of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission demonstrated none of the amazing technology would be possible without the people who make it all possible. 

The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) was launched on Sept. 8, 2016, atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 411 rocket from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida.

What follows are images pivotal to the success of the mission. However, there aren’t any images of either the spacecraft or the rocket that sent it on its way to asteroid Bennu. Instead, these are images of the engineers, scientists, and officials who spent countless hours to get the mission underway.

Following their joyful OSIRIS-REx post-launch press briefing on September 8, 2016, NASA's Jim Green (center) and the University of Arizona's Dante Lauretta (right) celebrate with a big high five, as NASA's Chief Scientist Dr. Ellen Stofan looks on. Photo Credit: Jim Siegel / SpaceFlight Insider

Following their joyful OSIRIS-REx post-launch press briefing on September 8, 2016, NASA’s Jim Green (center) and the University of Arizona’s Dante Lauretta (right) celebrate with a big high five, as NASA’s Chief Scientist Dr. Ellen Stofan looks on. Photo Credit: Jim Siegel / SpaceFlight Insider

Anne Meier, a NASA chemical engineer on several projects that focus on deep space exploration and resource reutilization for human spaceflight, briefs reporters on initiatives to convert logistical space trash into useful byproducts for volume reduction and fuel production on long space flights. Photo Credit: Jim Siegel / SpaceFlight Insider

Anne Meier, a NASA chemical engineer on several projects that focus on deep space exploration and resource re-utilization for human spaceflight, briefs reporters on initiatives to convert logistical space trash into useful byproducts for volume reduction and fuel production on long space flights. As a crew member of the 2014 HI-SEAS Mars analog simulation, she took part in a 120-day psychological study and performed various research projects while living in an isolated Mars-like habitat with an international crew. She is a graduate of the 2012 NASA FIRST leadership development program and is currently earning her doctorate in chemical engineering at the University of South Florida. Photo Credit: Jim Siegel / SpaceFlight Insider

"The orbit we hit is nearly perfect," explained ULA's Program Manager for NASA Missions Scott Messer, during a September 8 OSIRIS-REx post-launch press conference at Kennedy Space Center, noting that we "are hitting the milestones right on time." Photo Credit: Jim Siegel / SpaceFlight Insider

“The orbit we hit is nearly perfect,” explained ULA’s Program Manager for NASA Missions Scott Messer, during a September 8 OSIRIS-REx post-launch press conference at Kennedy Space Center, noting that we “are hitting the milestones right on time.” Photo Credit: Jim Siegel / SpaceFlight Insider

NASA Director of Planetary Science Dr. Jim Green (left) describes his excitement following the successful launch of the OSIRIS-REx mission to the Asteroid Bennu, as his project teammate, Dante Lauretta (University of Arizona) smiles broadly in agreement. Photo Credit: Jim Siegel / SpaceFlight Insider

NASA Director of Planetary Science Dr. Jim Green (left) describes his excitement following the successful launch of the OSIRIS-REx mission to the Asteroid Bennu, as his project teammate, Dante Lauretta (University of Arizona) smiles broadly in agreement. Photo Credit: Jim Siegel / SpaceFlight Insider

Stan Starr, manager of the applied sciences branch at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, briefs reporters on September 8, 2016, regarding in situ resource utilization initiatives that will enable long space journeys, such as to MARS, by providing the ability to manufacture or grow supplies such as food and fuel along the way, rather than stock them on the spacecraft from launch. Photo Credit: Jim Siegel / SpaceFlight Insider

Stan Starr, manager of the applied sciences branch at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, briefs reporters on September 8, 2016, regarding in situ resource utilization initiatives that will enable long space journeys, such as to MARS, by providing the ability to manufacture or grow supplies such as food and fuel along the way, rather than stock them on the spacecraft from launch. Photo Credit: Jim Siegel / SpaceFlight Insider

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After exclaiming, “It’s been an amazing evening for me and my team,” OSIRIS-REx principal Investigator Dante Lauretta from the University of Arizona, struck a more subdued chord remembering his mentor and friend, the late Dr. Michael Drake. It was Drake who had doggedly worked to finally persuade NASA to send a spacecraft to an asteroid, a program approved in May 2011 that was to become known as OSIRIS-REx. Drake’s exhilaration sustained him for some months until he sadly succumbed to cancer in October of that year. Said Lauretta, “This program is dedicated to Dr. Michael Drake.” Photo Credit: Jim Siegel / SpaceFlight Insider

Lockheed Martin's Gary Napier holds up one of the components of the OSIRIS-REx sample return mission. Photo Credit: Jim Siegel / SpaceFlight Insider

Lockheed Martin’s Gary Napier holds up one of the components of the OSIRIS-REx sample return mission. Photo Credit: Jim Siegel / SpaceFlight Insider

Christina Richey (left), OSIRIS-REx deputy program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, and Jason Dworkin, OSIRIS-REx project scientist at Goddard, demonstrate with a model of the Asteroid Bennu how the OSIRIS-REx mission vehicle will approach the asteroid, scan its surface, and eventually perform a 3-second touchdown to retrieve a sample of surface material. Photo Credit: Jim Siegel / SpaceFlight Insider

Christina Richey (left), OSIRIS-REx deputy program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, and Jason Dworkin, OSIRIS-REx project scientist at Goddard, demonstrate with a model of the asteroid Bennu how the OSIRIS-REx mission vehicle will approach the asteroid, scan its surface, and eventually perform a 3-second touchdown to retrieve a sample of surface material. Photo Credit: Jim Siegel / SpaceFlight Insider

 

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SpaceFlight Insider

 

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Jim Siegel comes from a business and engineering background, as well as a journalistic one. He has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University, an MBA from the University of Michigan, and executive certificates from Northwestern University and Duke University. Jim got interested in journalism in 2002. As a resident of Celebration, FL, Disney’s planned community outside Orlando, he has written and performed photography extensively for the Celebration Independent and the Celebration News. He has also written for the Detroit News, the Indianapolis Star, and the Northwest Indiana Times (where he started his newspaper career at age 11 as a paperboy). Jim is well known around Celebration for his photography, and he recently published a book of his favorite Celebration scenes. Jim has covered the Kennedy Space Center since 2006. His experience has brought a unique perspective to his coverage of first, the space shuttle Program, and now the post-shuttle era, as US space exploration accelerates its dependence on commercial companies. He specializes in converting the often highly technical aspects of the space program into contexts that can be understood and appreciated by average Americans.

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