The first voice that confirmed the landing of NASA’s Perseverance rover on the surface of Mars on Thursday was that of an Indian-American. It was none other than Dr Swati Mohan, who spearheaded the development of attitude control and the landing system for the rover.
“Touchdown confirmed! Perseverance is safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking the signs of past life,” Swati Mohan announced soon after the rover landed on the red planet, as cheers out broke in NASA’s mission control room in California.
Swati was part of Mars mission from its beginning
The attitude control system is responsible for pointing the rover in the direction it needs to be and help figure out where the spacecraft is oriented in space. Her team’s mission is to figure out how the rover is oriented and to make sure the spacecraft points correctly in space and to manoeuvre the spacecraft to get it where the scientists want it to go.
Swati Mohan emigrated from India to the United States when she was one year old. She was raised in Northern Virginia Washington DC metro area. She completed her B.S from Cornell University in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. She did her M.S. and Ph.D from MIT in Aeronautics/Astronautics. She wanted to become a paediatrician but at the age of 16 took physics class and decided to study engineering as a way to pursue a career in space exploration.
Swati was born in Karnataka
Swati Mohan had worked on multiple missions such as Cassini (mission to Saturn) and GRAIL (a pair of formation-flown spacecraft to the Moon). She was part of the Mars mission since the beginning of the project in 2013. She is now the Mars 2020 Guidance, Navigation, and Controls Operations Lead, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.