Imagine unfolding and reading the following letter attached to your Christmas card:
“After about 6 years of testing, I was finally able to get an asteroid sample return mission that I designed and called OSIRIS-REx. It will therefore be launched in 2016 and will bring back some samples in 2023. J was also able to get 2 mission designs for a cometary lander, and a ship that will float on a sea of titan methane in the final round of the competition for the next set of planetary missions, so hopefully one of the ‘among them will also be chosen. Astronomers are happy. They are going to give my name to an asteroid. “
I don’t know about the Christmas card letters you are used to reading, but the ones I browse over a cup of cocoa are more about how Jimmy was inducted into the National Honor Society and that Mabeline girl. made the final cut in the beauty pageant and how Uncle Rupert’s Onions are acting again.
But no, I don’t remember a friend or relative telling me over Christmas how the research he is doing can help us understand the time before the formation and evolution of the solar system.
But Brian Sutter’s friends and relatives did, including the Alan Adsmond family, and Lou Adsmond thought it was so interesting that Lou recently shared the letter with me.
Brian is, as you might have guessed, fundamentally a rocket scientist.
More important, perhaps, for those in the Grandville area is that he graduated in 1979 from their high school.
He never came back for a class reunion. But if he were to go, there’s a good chance he’ll gather a small crowd, wondering how the hell he went from a kid making hay bales on his father’s Ottawa County farm, to a genius who became the cutting edge man for the NASA billion dollar project.
“I’d like to think I wasn’t a total geek,” Brian says of his high school years, “but probably on that side of the population.”
He performed in the group, but otherwise didn’t participate in many formal extracurricular activities.
Mainly because he had his head in the stars.
I asked him if he was the kid who always played with the mounting sets and telescopes, and I could hear his voice change. “It was me,” Brian said. “And I’ve always been interested in space, even when I was little. When we were sending guys to the moon in the ’60s and early’ 70s, it all really caught my imagination. So I knew pretty much all my life what I wanted to do.
Brian, now 51, graduated from Grandville High with a degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Michigan. He eventually settled in Colorado and, for the past 29 years, has been employed by Lockheed Martin Space System.
He and his wife have three children, ages 10, 14 and 16, and in Brian’s words, “They’re all smart kids” and share his passion for Star Wars and space and other things that don’t. are not of this world.
To date, Brian has worked on five missions to Mars, one to Venus, another to Jupiter, and one to the Moon.
But he calls the OSIRIS-REx project “a mission designer’s dream”, which involves an interplanetary cruise, performing the surface mapping of an asteroid named “1999 RQ36” for 505 days, and then sampling it. ‘a sample the size of a handful of the asteroid and the material shuttle. come back to earth at speeds of about 7 miles per second.
It is not easy to get NASA to select your project. The competition is intense and it usually takes years for a project to even come before the committee.
Right now, the OSIRIS mission is under intense scrutiny that would give top engineers headaches. “Five days of meetings last week,” Brian said. “The review committee goes through the design in great detail to make sure we’re on the right track.
This mission is so important that it could help define what the universe looked like before our solar system was born. And just in case you were wondering, West Michigan Brian is quite convinced, like most scientists, that the world was not created in seven days.
As to whether others inhabit our universe, he admits that “I imagine it’s out there somewhere; the universe is a pretty big place.
But he doesn’t engage with UFOs: “I don’t really know much about it or have no opinion on it.”
What delighted me about Brian Sutter is that when I asked him to spell “OSIRIS-REx” he hesitated.
And then he just laughed.
While Brian may be confused by the spelling, he has enough credibility that NASA is considering naming an asteroid after him. At least he knows his name is on the waiting list.
Take this, Mabeline.
For more information on the mission, visit Osiris-rex.lpl.arizona.edu
Send an email to Tom Rademacher at: firstname.lastname@example.org