For nearly seventeen of his thirty-two years in the news business, he was a staff correspondent and anchor with CNN based in Atlanta and New York. He served as the science, environment and aerospace space correspondent and the anchor of various programs, including American Morning. While at CNN, O’Brien secured a deal with NASA to become the first journalist to fly on the space shuttle. The project ended with the loss of Columbia and her crew in 2003 – a story he told to the world in a critically acclaimed sixteen-hour marathon of live coverage.
He is currently an at large member of the NASA advisory Council, offering strategic advise to the NASA administrator.
Prior to joining CNN, he worked as a reporter at television stations in Boston, Tampa, Albany, NY and St. Joseph, MO. He began his television career as a desk assistant at WRC-TV in Washington, DC. O’Brien is an accomplished pilot and is frequently called upon to explain the world of aviation to a mass audience.
He has won numerous awards over the years, including a half-dozen Emmys, a Peabody and DuPont for his coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. In February of 2014, a heavy equipment case fell on his forearm while he was on assignment in Asia. He developed Acute Compartment Syndrome, which necessitated the emergency amputation of his left arm above the elbow. Despite the loss of his arm, remains an avid cyclist, runner, and has begun the training required to regain his medical qualification to be a private pilot.
Born in Detroit and raised in Grosse Pointe Farms, MI, he is based in Washington, DC. He has a son at the US Naval Academy and a daughter at Davidson College in North Carolina. He was a history major at Georgetown University.