Man wearing sunglasses melting glass in lab with burner.

OSIRIS-REx Project Scientist Jason Dworkin in the lab. Credit: NASA/Debora McCallum

People of OSIRIS-REx

By Lonnie Shekhtman

Feature | December 2, 2018

UPDATE: Dec. 2, 2018

Animated GIF of small, rocky asteroid
This set of images shows the asteroid Bennu rotating for one full revolution. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is scheduled to rendezvous with its targeted asteroid, Bennu, on Monday, Dec. 3 at approximately noon EST (9 a.m. PST).

NASA will air a live event from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. EST (8:45 a.m. to 9:15 a.m.) to highlight the arrival of the agency’s first asteroid sample return mission. The program will originate from OSIRIS-REx’s mission control at the Lockheed Martin Space facility in Littleton, Colorado, and will air on NASA Television, Facebook Live, Ustream, YouTube and the agency's website. NASA TV also will air an arrival preview program starting at 11:15 a.m. EST.


This short Q&A was featured in a Nov. 19, 2018 article introducing a selection of people who work on the OSIRIS-REx mission to explore asteroid Bennu.

As OSIRIS-REx closes in on its target destinationthe asteroid Bennuanticipation is building for the first-ever, close up glimpse of this prominent rock in space.

The SUV-sized spacecraft has traveled billions of miles (kilometers) to a learn more about the origins of the solar system.

It took thousands of people and many years of perseverance to come this far.

Get to know these 10 people on the OSIRIS-REx team:

Carl Hergenrother
Carl Hergenrother. Credit: Heather Roper/University of Arizona

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.”

Read More About Carl ›

Heather Roper
Heather Roper. Credit: Bob Demers / University Communications, University of Arizona

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.”

Read More About Heather ›

Jason Dworkin
Jason Dworkin. NASA/Debora McCallum

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.”

Read More About Jason ›

Sara Balram Knutson
Sara Balram Knutson. Credit: Heather Roper/University of Arizona

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.”

Read More About Sara ›

Nancy Neal Jones
Nancy Neal Jones. Credit: NASA/Lonni Shekhtman

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.”

Read More About Nancy ›

Javier Cerna
Javier Cerna. Credit: Lockheed Martin

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.”

Read More About Javier ›

Jamie Moore
Jamie Moore. Credit: Jamie Moore.

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.”

Read More About Jamie ›

Mike Moreau
Mike Moreau. Credit: Lockheed Martin

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.”

Read More About Mike ›

Johnna L. McDaniel
Johnna L. McDaniel. Credit: NASA

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.”

Read More About Johnna ›

Annie Hasten
Credit: Annie Hasten

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.”

Read More About Annie ›