As the world watched the new NASA rover touchdown on the Martian surface, it was Indian American Swati Mohan who virtually spearheaded the successful landing of Perseverance that will search for signs of life on the Red Planet.
"Touchdown confirmed! Perseverance is safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking the signs of past life," cheered Mohan, wearing a mask from the NASA headquarters in the US. The Landing was perceived to be "so dangerous" it was nicknamed "7 minutes of terror".
"The spacecraft @NASAPersevere is currently transmitting heartbeat tones — these tones indicate that Perseverance is operating normally."— NASA (@NASA) February 18, 2021
Swati Mohan, @NASAJPL engineer on the rover's landing team, provides a status update on the #CountdownToMars: pic.twitter.com/D1Tx9BEYld
Mohan, who successfully spearheaded the development of attitude control and the landing system for the rover, was among the team of scientists behind the historic mission. The attitude control system is responsible for pointing the rover in the direction it needs to be and also helps figure out where the spacecraft is oriented in space.
The Cornell graduate has been associated with the Perseverance Mars Mission since its inception and has been part of a number of other NASA missions like the Cassini (a mission to Saturn) and GRAIL (a pair of spacecraft information on the Moon) over the years.
If you watched the Mars landing today, the voice you heard was @DrSwatiMohan. She immigrated to the US from India at age 1, was inspired by Star Trek at 9, then earned a B.S from Cornell in mechanical and aerospace engineering, and an M.S. and Ph.D from MIT in aeronautics. pic.twitter.com/mHZQmz3iPD— Paul Rogers (@PaulRogersSJMN) February 18, 2021
The NASA scientist first emigrated from India to the United States when she was just a year old. Most of her childhood was spent in the Northern Virginia-Washington DC area. Swathi traces her love for space back to the American science fiction series ‘Star Trek’, which she first watched at the age of 9. While she wanted to become a paediatrician until she was 16, she later decided to become an engineer and pursue her interest in space exploration.
The robotic vehicle sailed through space for nearly seven months and covered over 472 million km before entering the Martian atmosphere at 12,000 miles per hour (19,000 km per hour) to begin its approach to touchdown on the planet’s surface.