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Meet the Indian American who took Perseverance to Mars5 min read

March 2, 2021 4 min read

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Meet the Indian American who took Perseverance to Mars5 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes

“Touchdown confirmed.”

On February 18, Dr. Swati Mohan, was one of the two voices that announced to the world that NASA’s Perseverance Rover has successfully landed on Mars.

Sourced from The Hindu

Dr Swati Mohan is an Indian-American who moved to the United States of America when she was one. She is the guidance, navigation and controls operation lead for the Perseverance Rover mission that is being hailed as NASA’s most sophisticated spacecraft till date.

Owliver’s Obscure Observations:

Dr. Mohan’s role in the mission is holistic for it reveals as much about life on Mars as it reveals about representation on our planet. She is part of the 1% of Indian- Americans working in NASA, an organisation that until 1978, only admitted white men into its teams of astronauts.

Owliver traces her journey that led to this shining moment!

It started with Star Trek

From IMDB

Dr. Mohan was 9 when she saw her episode of Star Trek.

Star Trek is an American science-fiction series that follows the expedition of James T Kirk, who is the captain of the Starship Enterprise. He explores the whole galaxy with his crew and goes on several adventures as they fight evil forces together.

“I remember thinking ‘I want to do that. I want to find new and beautiful places in the universe.”

Dr. Mohan, in an interview with NASA

As time went by, Dr. Mohan decided that she wanted to be a paediatrician. But it was only at 16, when she attended her first Physics class, that she developed an interest in engineering. She went on to study mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell University. Later, she did a masters degree and doctorate in aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
From here, she moved to NASA.

Her time at NASA

Sourced from NASA

Before her work on the MARS mission, Dr. Mohan was involved in Cassini, a spacecraft that unearthed the many mysteries of Saturn. She was also involved in Grail, a mission that sent two twin spacecrafts to the moon.
She joined the Mars 2020 mission at NASA in 2013. As the guidance, navigation and controls operation lead, she helmed the controls that ensured that the spacecraft was heading in the right direction.

Think of this way: She was the driver of a very complicated drone flying at a distance of 222.42 million kilometres away from her!

“During entry, descent, and landing on Mars, GN&C determines the position of the spacecraft and commands the maneuvers to help it land safely.”

Dr. Mohan, IN AN INTERVIEW WITH NASA

Dr. Mohan quipped that she has been in the Mars mission longer than she had been in school. In an interview with Florida Today, she said, “I’ve been on Perseverance longer than my younger daughter is alive. It’s just taken up such a large portion of my life for so long.”

Sourced from NASA

Owliver’s Obscure Observations:
One of the two voices from NASA’s control room on the Perseverance Rover belonged to Dr. Swati Mohan. The other voice belonged to Allen Chen, the entry, descent, and landing lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The end of a favourite show

Dr. Mohan compared the feeling of the mission’s culmination with that of a favourite TV show coming to an end.

“It’s sort of like that where you’ve been working on something day in and day out for seven to eight years and now you’re coming up on the series finale and for better or worse after that day it’s done and you’re not going to be working on it anymore after landing day regardless of what the outcome is.”

Dr. Mohan, with Florida Today

Hear Dr. Mohan talk about her experiences in the video below:

This remarkable mission will bring back important insights on life on Mars for all us earthlings. This will determine if human life can be sustained on the planet!

And we will have the amazing team, led by Dr. Swati Mohan, to thank for that!

*Applause*

Sourced from Giphy