On February 18th, the world watched with bated breath, as the Perseverance Rover landed on Mars’ surface after spending seven months in its orbit. After manoeuvring a tricky plunge, it was Dr Swati Mohan who confirmed that the rover had successfully made its way into the red planet.
As the NASA control room erupted in cheer, a calm and composed Mohan kept those watching updated about the touchdown and initial observations. She has been an instrumental part in this mission to Mars, right from the inception of the Perseverance Rover, to the development of its attitude control and landing system. The attitude control system helps point the rover in the direction it needs to go, and place where the spacecraft is.
Mohan immigrated to the United States when she was just a year old. Her fascination with space began at the age of nine, after she watched Star Trek’ for the first time. She graduated from Cornell with a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering. She went on to earn her Master’s and a subsequent PhD in aeronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Since then, she has been associated with a number of missions with NASA, most notably, its Cassini mission to Saturn.
On the day of the landing, Mohan steered Perseverance Rover, navigating through a tricky touchdown. “Touchdown confirmed! Perseverance is safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking the signs of past life,” she announced, once the rover made contact with Mars’ surface, as reported by The Indian Express.
Since landing on Mars, Perseverance has captured stunning images of the terrain. One image shows that one of the six wheels of the rover is surrounded by rocks thought to be over three billion years old; another images depicts the horizon just as the rover landed on the planet.
Image Source: Twitter/ AB Vinay Reddy (@AgumamidiVReddy)