When NASA successfully landed its Perseverance rover on Mars after 7 months in space on Friday, it was an Indian-American scientist named Dr Swati Mohan who first confirmed this news.
Touchdown confirmed. The #CountdownToMars is complete, but the mission is just beginning. pic.twitter.com/UvOyXQhhN9— NASA (@NASA) February 18, 2021
Touchdown confirmed! Perseverance safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking signs of past life.
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
Mohan led the landing of the rover on the planet is the Mars 2020 Guidance, Navigation and Controls (GN&C) Operations Lead in NASA and led the attitude control and landing system for the Perseverance. She was also the lead systems engineer throughout the development and took care of the team and schedules the mission control.
Apart from this, she has been a part of this mission since the beginning, which is since 2013.
“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
According to NASA, Mohan emigrated from India to the US at the age of 1 and was raised in Northern Virginia / Washington DC metro area. She completed her B.S from Cornell University in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, and her M.S. and Ph.D from MIT in Aeronautics/Astronautics.
She has worked on multiple missions such as Cassini (mission to Saturn) and GRAIL (a pair of formation flown spacecraft to the Moon).
On the official NASA website, Dr Mohan described that watching an episode of Star Trek sparked her interest in space and science for the first time.
I remember watching my first episode of “Star Trek” at the age of 9, and seeing the beautiful depictions of the new regions of the universe that they were exploring. I remember thinking “I want to do that. I want to find new and beautiful places in the universe.” The vastness of space holds so much knowledge that we have only begun to learn.
Later on, she took her first Physics class at the age of 16. After this, she realized that she loved the subject and considered engineering as a means to pursue space.
Mohan is currently working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.