Space Apps global winners experienced the thrill of launch as NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission broke the bonds of earth on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on Thursday evening -- on the first attempt!!
OSIRIS-REx will travel to a near-Earth asteroid Bennu, scoop up soil samples, and bring them back to Earth for study. If all goes as planned, the spacecraft will reach Bennu in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023.
Our global winners (and location leads who hosted the event where the teams created their award winning projects) traveled to Florida [at their own expense] from California, North Carolina, Italy, Ukraine, UK, and Canada. For many of our international winners, this is their first trip to the US. Also joining us at the launch were our Space Apps Global team members, as their reward for working so hard to make Space Apps a success. We gathered together on L-1 to meet and greet each other and NASA engineers and scientists from the Kennedy Space Center. Caley Burke, Space Apps host extraordinaire, organized our get-together, as she's done for the last 4 years.
We headed out to the Saturn V facility at Banana Creek to view the launch yesterday afternoon, with two busloads of eager Space Apps-ers. Here we are before launch, in the image below. Happy. Excited. Hopeful. The experience didn't disappoint. It's always a thrill to take part in a launch, and become a player in the history of a mission to space. When the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft reaches Asteroid Bennu, we'll feel ownership with the mission scientists. When the samples return back to Earth, we'll tell stories of how we were there...in the beginning.
And we have so many stories to tell already. For instance, one of the Space Apps Toronto hosts who attended the launch with Team Book It To The Moon, Oksana Salamaszek, is a catalyst for our Women in Data initiative. I met Oksana in 2014 when I attended my first Space Apps event. She participated as a volunteer for her first hackathon event that year. At the conclusion of the weekend, the hosts and volunteers all went to dinner. She showed us her awesome rocket launch project and told us that she planned to participate in 2015, rather than volunteer to staff the event. She told us that she knows how to code, but wasn't sure she was accomplished enough to take part on a challenge team. She volunteered to get a sense of what was expected, to see if she would fit in. Once she saw how things worked and looked at the results of the project teams, she said she would take part in solving the challenges on a project team. The Women in Data initiative was born of the conversations at Space Apps Toronto. Oksana's progression -- from volunteer, to participant, to host -- is exactly what Space Apps is all about. We want to gather together innovative thinkers around NASA data, give them tools to succeed, and watch them grow -- individually, and in their communities.
Another of our hosts, Ben Noble, came down to the 2014 Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1) launch with his winning team from Space Apps London. At that launch, he told us he wanted to host the following year's London event. Now he's back at the launch as the host of the Space Apps London winning team, Canaria. We love the transformative power of the Space Apps model, where individuals engage as participants and grow to leadership roles in the Space Apps ecosystem.
And when we gather together at the launch, at the end of our Space Apps cycle, new relationships form as we engage in unlikely conversations that bring about unexpected results. In the image below, Ben Slavin and Nick Hudkins of our Chalk and Chisel interactive web design team, talk about quantum mechanics and the how the universe works with NASA's enthusiastic Dr. Weiping Yu. Dr Yu supports our Space Apps winners at launch every year, and this year volunteered to staff one of our busses to come to the launch viewing with us. He always thrills the guests with cool science demos.
Thanks to all our winners, hosts, and team members who traveled to Florida to witness an amazing lift-off with us. What a great conclusion to a fabulous year with Space Apps 2016. This is a once in a lifetime experience for those who come for a launch. I'm so honored and privileged to take part, and help share the NASA love with all the hosts and teams who worked so hard to get here.
Open Innovation Program Manager