PHS grad Coralie Adam reaches for the stars

Coralie+Adam+poses+with+PenRex%2C+OSIRIS-REx%E2%80%99s+mascot+ahead+of+the+satellite+landing.+

Used with permission from Coralie Adam

Coralie Adam poses with PenRex, OSIRIS-REx’s mascot ahead of the satellite landing.

By Monika Jurevicius, Palatine High School

Gathered with her team members, Coralie Adam stood in excitement as she watched her space mission unfold in front of her after years of working on it. Being one of only eight people who could do her job in the world, Coralie and her team just achieved NASA’s first, revolutionary touch-and-go mission, otherwise known as OSIRIS-REx. She celebrated and knew this isn’t the end. 

“I was overwhelmed with excitement and pride for the team of talented people I work with that dedicated years to making this moment happen so flawlessly,” Adam said. 

Timeline of the trailblazing mission will take over two decades. Monika Jurevicius

Adam, a Palatine High School graduate, is a vital part of OSIRIS-REx. She is the optical navigation lead and TAG navigation manager. The spacecraft built for the mission has been orbiting the asteroid Bennu for the past two years. Adam helps calculate how the spacecraft will land safely on Nightingale, the landing spot on Bennu. 

“You take all the math that the people give you; you got to hit a target hundreds of millions of miles away,” Sean Fisher-Rhodie, PHS teacher and Astrology club advisor, explains Adam’s job. “What are the courses? What are the things you have to do to be able to get to that target?”

Over the past few months, Adam has been working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She is accompanied by her husband, John Adam, who is also a PHS graduate. However, much of her work is done online because there are hundreds of people who work on the mission in the U.S. If she has to address the mission in person, she works at the OSIRIS-REx mission operations center in Colorado.

“I’m very grateful to the technology and security that allows me to navigate a spacecraft millions (or billions) of miles away from my laptop, anywhere in the country,” Adam said. 

 Adam has always had a passion for science. PHS helped solidify her passion for astronomy and engineering. Fisher-Rhodie had worked with Adam for many years during her time in Astronomy Club. He first helped mentor her with an independent study project in astrophotography. 

“She is no different than any Palatine student,” Fisher-Rhodie said. “She put herself on the path to success to get where she’s at.”

OSIRIS-REx still has a long way to go until it’s next major step, collecting and bringing back a matter sample in 2023. Adam’s focus will shift to another mission for the time being. 

“Since Optical Navigation is not required for that [collection], I will be switching my focus to the next mission: NASA’s Lucy Mission to the Jupiter Trojan Asteroids,” Adam said. “I’m excited to continue exploring small, primitive bodies in our solar system, and help unlock more secrets about our origins.”

This story was originally published on Cutlass on November 11, 2020.