O'Brien contributed to CNN's
Peabody-award winning coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its
afterman with live reports across the U.S. Gulf Coast. In February
2003, O'Brien led CNN's coverage of the Columbia Space Shuttle
tragedy, offering viewers exclusive information and uniquely
insightful context based on his years of professional experience
with and study of NASA and space exploration. The day after
the disaster, O'Brien traveled from Atlanta to Houston, where
he continued his in-depth reporting from Johnson Space Center.
Later in the year, O'Brien anchored much of the network's coverage
of the war in Iraq.
Additionally, he has covered such stories as John Glenn's
return to space on Oct. 29, 1998, during which he shared the
anchor desk with broadcast news pioneer Walter Cronkite. An
instrument-rated pilot with several hundred hours of flight
time in a dozen types of aircraft, O'Brien covers all aspects
of manned spaceflight, as well as unmanned scientific missions.
In the fall of 1999, he led CNN's coverage of the demise of
NASA's Mars Climate Orbiter and Polar Lander. In the wake of
the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, O'Brien used his flight
experience to provide viewers simulated walk-through coverage
of the hijacked flights as well as other reports about military
action, especially as it pertained to combat aviation.
O'Brien reports extensively on civil aviation issues as well,
covering the crash investigations of, US Air 427, TWA 800,
Egyptair 990 American 587 and the accidents that took the lives
of John F. Kennedy Jr., Payne Stewart and Sen. Paul Wellstone.
In the fall of 2000, he provided a series of acclaimed live
and taped reports from Russia and Kazakhstan coinciding with
the launch of the first multinational crew to live aboard the
international space station. In 2000, he produced, shot and
wrote a one-hour documentary on the intricate, sometimes-perilous
process of readying a space shuttle for flight. "Terminal
Count: What it Takes to Make the Space Shuttle Fly" aired
in May 2001. Previously, he was anchor and correspondent for
CNN's Science Unit, producing various stories for air during
CNN's daily programming, as well as writing and hosting the
weekly broadcast CNN Science & Technology Week. Before
joining CNN in April 1992, O'Brien was a general assignment
reporter and anchor at TV stations in Boston, Tampa, Albany,
N.Y., and St. Joseph, Mo. He began his broadcast career in
1982 as an assignment editor at WRC-TV in Washington, D.C.
In 2002, O'Brien won the Space Communicator Award from the
Rotary National Award for Space Achievement for outstanding
media coverage of space reporting. O'Brien was part of the
team that received a National Headliner Award for investigative
coverage of the Sept. 11 attacks in 2002 and a News and Documentary
Emmy Award for CNN’s coverage of the 1996 Centennial
Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta. He won an Overseas Press Club
Award for a 1994 documentary on post-Cold War technology conversion
in the United States and Russia, as well as a local Emmy Award
in 1989 for reports that exposed an emerging youth gang crisis
in Boston. He also won a local Emmy Award in 1985 for reports
on a chlorine gas leak in St. Petersburg, Fla.
O'Brien attended Georgetown University.