Monday, June 21, 2021

Big Picture

Profile- Swati Mohan: Who is the woman behind the landing of NASA’s “Perseverance” on Mars

When Swati Mohan was one year old, she immigrated from India to the USA. She was inspired by “Star Trek” and ended up getting a doctorate at MIT. NASA engineer Swati Mohan was the one who exclaimed: “the landing was confirmed. “Perseverance” is safe on the surface of Mars, ready to start looking for signs of a previous life”. Among the scientists on the historic mission, the Indo-American scientist led the development of the control and landing system of the robot that landed on Mars a few days ago.

Dr. Mohan immigrated from India to America when she was just one year old. She spent most of her childhood in North Virginia-Washington. She holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering from Cornell University and completed her postgraduate and doctoral studies in Aeronautics – Astronautics at MIT. She has been a member of the Perseverance Rover mission since its inception in Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA in 2013, while she has participated in other important missions of the organization.

At the age of 9, she watched “Star Trek” for the first time. She could not stop thinking about the stunning images of space and how she could find the way to explore them. Almost immediately, she decided that this was what she wanted to do. To learn more about space and to discover new places in the Universe. Time passed and one of her thoughts was to become a doctor. After all, she believed that NASA was only for men. Until a physics teacher, whom she described as “excellent”, recognized her talent and suggested that she should study engineering. By this way, she could get one step closer to the mystery of space that she was so interested in solving.

The years passed and Dr. Swati Mohan became the “eyes and ears” of the robot that arrived on Mars. She planned its course, she ensured its correct inclination, she organized every move until it reached the goal. It took the six-wheeler seven minutes to land from the time it entered the atmosphere of Mars. Those in the control room described the whole process as “the seven minutes of terror.” And yet, the mission was completed successfully, thanks to an exceptional woman who left nothing to deprive her of her dreams.

Not many things have been published about her personal life. We don’t know if she is married but for sure she is focused on her career. Wikipedia states that she has a daughter who was born after she began working on the Mars 2020 project in 2013.

“Perseverance” will descend into the great Jezero Crater, once an ancient lake and river delta where it is thought to have existed life forms billions of years ago, when Mars was warmer, wetter and possibly more hospitable.

Not to forget to mention that the robot has an experimental device that will convert the atmosphere of Mars with carbon dioxide into pure oxygen, as well as a mini weather station, 19 cameras and two microphones that will record the first Martian sounds. The robot will also release the “Ingenuity”, a small robotic helicopter weighing 1.8 kg, the first in history to fly to another planet.

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Maria Gourtsilidou
Maria Gourtsilidou is Senior Editor of Research and Data Analytics at the CEOWORLD magazine. She is responsible for driving thought leadership, using data analytics to showcase the company’s products and services, and fostering knowledge sharing between CEOWORLD magazine and client organizations. She studied Public Administration (Economics Of The Public Sector) in Greece and holds a Bachelor’s in Public Administration from the Panteion University of Political & Social Studies. Follow Maria Gourtsilidou on Twitter. Write at