Woman in her office.

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

This Month: People of OSIRIS-REx

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft settled in at its target destination—the asteroid Bennu—on Dec. 3, 2018 after a journey spanning more than two years and two billion miles. Anticipation is building for the first-ever, close-up exploration of this prominent rock in space.

It took thousands of people years of perseverance to come this far. Meet a few members of our team.

10 Planetary Scientists


Heather Roper

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


Carl Hergenrother

"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"


Jason Dworkin

"I’ve been interested in the origin of life since third grade. I liked dinosaurs as a kid...The logical extreme of dinosaurs is the origin of life."

Heather Roper


Sara Balram Knutson

“My dad was in the Air Force, so I grew up being a bit of an airplane nerd. I looked for a field where I could combine those interests.”


Nancy Neal Jones

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


Javier Cerna

"One thing we do is evaluate how strong the signal from the spacecraft is—kind of like checking the strength of the WiFi connection."


Jamie Moore

"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."


Mike Moreau

“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 to things that I learned on my dad’s farm.”


Johnna L. McDaniel

"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."


Annie Hasten

“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.”

Nancy Neal Jones

Fast Fact

OSIRIS-REx is NASA's first asteroid sample return mission. It will collect samples from near-Earth asteroid Bennu (formerly 1999 RQ36) and bring the samples back to Earth for study.

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Why Bennu?

Scientists chose Bennu as the target of the OSIRIS-REx mission because of its composition, size, and proximity to Earth. Bennu is a rare B-type asteroid (primitive and carbon-rich), which is expected to have organic compounds and water-bearing minerals like clays.

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Work for NASA

Work for NASA

NASA is more than astronauts. We are scientists, engineers, IT specialists, human resources specialists, accountants, writers, technicians and many other kinds of people working together to break barriers to achieve the seemingly impossible.

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