Over at The Atlantic, I describe the OSIRIS-REx flyby of the Earth, and what I saw with the science team. Here is a snippet:
Hours after the Earth gravity assist, the hallways of the Michael Drake Building feel like an Aaron Sorkin movie. Mounted to a wall in the lobby is a digital countdown clock labeled TIME UNTIL EARTH GRAVITY ASSIST. Just after launch last year, it read 374 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes, 59.9 seconds. It now reads 000 00 00 00.0.
When team members aren’t working, they’re walking and talking or huddled in hallways and doorways discussing the flyby. The images. Prospects and possibilities for the data returned. What might we learn about this third planet from the sun? some joke. Is it habitable? Will there be water? But the spacecraft might indeed return usable earth-science data. The only question presently answerable is whether or not the team will come into the office after midnight and set about studying the data, or wait for more civilized hours of the morning. The scientists seem galvanized by the prospects of doing real science with a real spacecraft and an instrument payload that they conceived and carried to construction.
You can read the rest here.