To Bennu and Back!

osiris-rex-educational-science-posterHello FLVS peeps!

I had the distinct honor of representing FLVS at the OSIRIS REx rocket launch a few weeks ago.

Now if you’re wondering what exactly that means, OSIRIS REx stands for NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer. That’s a mouthful, right?

In a nutshell, NASA is sending a spacecraft to an asteroid named Bennu. Once it reaches Bennu (after a trip lasting two years), the spacecraft will orbit the asteroid for about a year, find the perfect place to collect about 80 grams of the rock, and head back home, arriving back to Earth in 2023.

It won’t actually land on the asteroid, but instead hover over it – and with the help of Canada and their amazing knowledge of spacecraft arms – will grab a small sample. (To put this in perspective, 80 grams is about the equivalent of 80 Skittle candies.)

So why are we going to Bennu?

Well, to find out what the building blocks of our Universe are.


The carbon-rich asteroid will likely help us put together more pieces of the “How the Universe Came About” puzzle.


Now being a scientist on this mission requires a lot of patience!

Dante Lauretta, the chief scientist, has been working on OSIRIS REx for more than 10 years and we still have years before the mission returns to Earth!

Can you imagine having a goal and knowing it would take THAT long to see any results?

Dr. Lauretta definitely has patience! In fact, every person I spoke with about this mission had the same message:

Be passionate and patient about your goals. twitter_bird_logo

I’ll be sharing with you some photos of my two-day space adventures at Kennedy Space Center, but the real takeaway was the importance of finding something you truly are passionate about.

Charles Bolden, the head of NASA (Yes, ALL of NASA!) spoke with us about the mission.


Someone asked the burning question, “What do we tell our youth of America to inspire them to keep reaching for the stars?” His answer was amazing.

twitter_bird_logo“Study hard. Be the best at what you are passionate about. Take risks. Grades aren’t everything. Learn from mistakes.” – Charlie Bolden

WHOA! Here is the head of our space program saying grades aren’t everything.

I had to take a moment to digest this, because as an educator and parent, grades can be very important!

But wait, aren’t we more engaged and willing to work harder for things we are passionate about? Whether it be a new gaming system, playing a sport, getting into a certain college, or just because we like to be high achievers…it’s so much easier to learn something when you are interested in it!

When I do my welcome call for Earth-Space Science, I ask students if they like science. Some say YES and others quietly say no. My response, “Not a problem! My goal is to make you interested in this subject and find a way for you to connect with it.” Not everyone likes science and that is okay! My goal is to be patient and find what they’re passionate about. Again, passion and patience. 🙂

I met so many amazing engineers and scientists on the OSIRIS REx mission and they all clearly LOVE their jobs. When speaking with them individually, their passion would shine through – and when I told them I was an educator, they handed me their business card and suggested I email or call them if I ever needed any help in science.

One even made a video for my 10-year-old daughter when I told her she wanted to be an engineer when she grew up. Isn’t that inspiring?!

The best part of this experience was seeing all of the women on the mission. STEAM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math, has a shortage of females in this career track.


These women were truly inspiring to me and I’m sure to many other women in science.

Check out this photo!


The two women on the left are geologist Ellen Stofan, NASA Chief Scientist, and Michelle Thaller, Deputy Director of Science Communications for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (an astrophysicist). They both talked to the media about the importance of this asteroid sample. They both shared why geology is important in science and how astronomy encompasses all sciences.

Dr. Alex Young is the gentleman with the flames on his shoes. He’s a heliophysicist and the Associate Director for Science in the Heliophysics Science Division at Goddard. I saw him when we went out to the launch pad and couldn’t resist chatting him up and getting a photo with him. He made it so easy to talk with him and brought some pretty complicated science down to my level!

Now that’s the sign of a great teacher!


The culmination of this experience happened at 7:05 p.m. on September 8 with OSIRIS REx launching into space. Because we were VIP (and yes, I enjoyed every second of that!), we sat with the press and were as close as you can be at a safe distance from the launch pad. It was such a beautiful sight and to hear the roar of the solid rocket boosters is something I will never tire of.


While this was a cool experience because I love space, it was even more special to see and hear the passion in all of the OSIRIS REx team members as they shared what their role was in the mission.

I now tell my own kids every day, not “I love you to the moon and back,” but “I love you to Bennu and back.”


So to all of our amazing FLVS students, follow Mr. Bolden’s advice: “Study hard. Be the best at what you are passionate about. Take risks. Grades aren’t everything. Learn from mistakes.”

Find your passion and go for it! Even the sky is no limit!

Photo credit: Daniel Ryan Dougherty (OSIRIS REx cover poster) and OSIRIS-REx (Valentine graphics)

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