Did you know World Space Week is coming up in less than a month? Well, PopUp Play has some very exciting things in store leading up to that week, all culminating in the launch of our newest playscape model: the rocketship.
We’re not the only ones that are getting ready for Space Week, though. Just last week, NASA Mission OSIRIS-REx took off, which involved the launch of one of NASA’s very own rocketships containing a robot the size of a mini-van to gather dust off an ancient asteroid, Bennu.
Of course, there’s a lot that goes into the launch of a rocketship, which made us wonder: just who are the masterminds behind this launch?
Meet Christina Richey, one of the coordinators of OSIRIS-REx. Christina is an astrophysicist and senior scientist at ARSC Federal, currently stationed at NASA Headquarters. A fan of asteroids, rocketships and gender inclusion in STEM, Christina is just one example of a kid who chased her dreams and is living them now.
For Christina, it all started when she was young. She had “three major career trajectories: a gym teacher, a meteorologist, or an astronaut.” She initially embarked on a degree in engineering before pursuing a specific niche in astrophysics.
Christina cites her mom as her biggest inspiration, who instilled in her the belief that she could do anything, even something that seemed far-off and unachievable (like studying space for a living!). Now, she’s chasing ancient asteroids across the galaxy.
Scientists hypothesize that Bennu has been floating through space untouched for 4.5 billion years. According to NPR, this essentially makes the asteroid a floating time capsule that could potentially tell us about the origins of our solar system.
“That’s a level of understanding we don’t have on Earth right now,” Christina said. The robot is expected to approach asteroid Bennu for a “high-five” sometime mid-2018. Bennu comes into Earth’s neighborhood once every 6 years and completes an orbit around the sun every 1.2 years, so now is really the optimal time for the spacecraft to go and return from Bennu, according to Christina.
Christina assured us all that there is little threat of Bennu hitting Earth for now, even though it is on the Hazardous Asteroids list. However, missions such as OSIRIS-REx allow us to learn more about these threats and potentially prevent dangerous asteroids in the future.
Just as some of our favorite hard-working kids do, Christina followed her dreams and is continuing to inspire and encourage others through her work. “One of the highlights of my career has been helping future scientists progress in the field,” she said.
Keep encouraging our next generation of makers, Christina! We sure hope we can encourage our own future generation of makers to high-five their own asteroids in their very own rocketships.