An Indian-American scientist Dr Swati Mohan has been a significant part of NASA's ambitious Mars mission involving the Perseverance Rover.
Swati Mohan, the NASA scientist who spearheaded the development if attitude control and landing system of the rover. (Image: Twitter/MKStalin)
An Indian-American scientist Dr Swati Mohan has been a significant part of NASA’s ambitious Mars mission involving the Perseverance Rover. As the curiosity rover soft-landed on the surface of the moon on Thursday (local time ) after spending seven months in space and surviving a tricky plunge in Martian sparse atmosphere, Dr Mohan was the first to have confirmed the historic feat.
“Touchdown confirmed! Perseverance is safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking the signs of past life,” Dr Mohan announced as the rover landed on the Martian soil calling for cheers in NASA’s control room and all around the world.
Dr. Mohan has spearheaded the development of attitude control and landing system of the rover. Attitude control system minds the position and attitude of a space vehicle. It navigates the rover in the direction it needs to be and find out where the spacecraft is oriented in the space.
Dr Mohan, a graduate from Cornell University was working on the Perseverance Mars mission since its inception and was also associated with other NASA space missions over the years. She was also part of NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn and GRAIL.
As the whole world waited with bated breath, the calm and composed Dr Mohan controlled one of the most nail-biting touchdowns on the Martian soil.
The NASA scientist left India for the United States when she was just a year old. An avid fan of American science fiction series ‘Star Trek’, Dr Mohan spent almost of her childhood in Northern Virginia-Washington DC area. Although edged towards, being a paediatrician in her early age after her first ‘physics’ class and with a help of a ‘great teacher’ later decided that her true calling is space exploration to “find need and beautiful places in the universe”.
She later went on to pursue engineer from Cornell University and then complete MS and PhD from MIT in Aeronautics/Astronautics.
Perseverance, the most expensive, the sophisticated rover spent 203 days in space traversing 293 million miles at 12,000 miles per hour speed before reaching Mars. The rover landed on the red planet at 3.55 pm (Eastern US time) on February 18th after a seven minutes long hiccup that saw a fiery entry to the Martian atmosphere and a parachute-assisted descent.
Eight retrorockets were fired for the rover’s descent at its right spot and then nylon cords were used to lower it to the surface.