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NASA’s PERSEVERANCE ROVER LANDS ON MARS – Dr. Swati Mohan, An Indian-American Scientist Plays Major Role In Its Landing

NASA’s Perseverance rover has successfully landed on the surface of Mars’ Jezero Crater that has been said to have been filled with water once upon a time. Since scientists were sure of the presence of water at the crater they were also suspicious of there being any signs of life in the crater as it is highly possible that the crater contains a rich fan-delta deposit. As soon as the rover made contact with the surface of Mars scientists and engineers at NASA’s mission control in California rejoiced. Among these scientists and engineers is one person essential to this all, she is the Guidance, Navigation, and Controls (GN&C) Operations Lead and played a pivotal role in the landing of the Perseverance rover. She is none other than the Indian-American Scientist Dr. Swati Mohan.

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Dr. Swati was the first to confirm the landing of the rover on the surface of Mars as when the rover landed, she had been coordinating activities between the GN&C team as well as the rest of the project’s teams. “Touchdown confirmed! Perseverance is safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking the signs of past life,” were the words of Dr. Swati delivered moments after the rover’s successful landing.  

Dr. Swati reached the shores of America when she was just one year old alongside her parents who had emigrated to America from India. As a result of that, she found herself spending her childhood in the Northern Virginia – Washington DC area. At the age of nine, she recalls having watched the American science-fiction movie of Star Trek after which she was determined to find beautiful places in the universe once she grew up. While she admits to having wanted to become a pediatrician till she was 16, her love and interest for physics took over and she became an engineer. 

Some of the other projects Dr. Swati has worked on apart from Perseverance are Cassini, a mission to Saturn and GRAIL, a pair of formation flown spacecraft whose destination was the Moon. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering from Cornell University and has also done her MS as well as Ph.D. from MIT in the field of Aeronautics/Astronautics. 

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