Laurie Leshin needed a moment alone, so she moved away from the group, lifted her head and reflected on the wonder above her.
It was approximately 9 a.m. Tuesday morning, and Leshin — an ASU alum and the director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory — stood underneath the Psyche spacecraft, reflecting on the journey that brought the Psyche team to this moment.
“I had a little quiet reflection and gratitude for all of the human hands, minds and hearts that have gone into making Psyche a reality,” said Leshin, who was at the launch site with a dozen people, including Elkins-Tanton. “We send robots into space, but they’re built by humans. It’s a very human endeavor.”
An endeavor, Leshin added, that was unlike any other NASA mission because it was interrupted and delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There is no mission, I think, within NASA that had to grapple with the impacts of COVID more than Psyche,” said Leshin, who graduated from ASU with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and later was a faculty member in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Their last review before starting to assemble the spacecraft happened one week before COVID hit and shut everything down. … It’s one of the big reasons that we had to delay the launch by a year.
“So having the team address the issues and now be here today … it’s incredibly satisfying.”
A few minutes before Leshin spoke, Lori Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, described Psyche as “truly a mission of discovery. We are going to visit a place that we’ve never (experienced) before.”
A Psyche display stands next to a U.S. flag at Kennedy Space Center on Oct. 10, with various buildings and the launch site in the background. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News.
It’s that discovery, that unknown that had Elkins-Tanton smiling during a noon briefing shown on NASA television.
“There aren’t that many…