Meet Swati Mohan, The Indian-Origin Scientist In The Team Of NASA's Perseverance Rover

Dr. Swati Mohan has made every Indian proud not only with her achievement, but also with her evident attachment to her Indian roots.

Sugandha Bora
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Swati Mohan mars
Swati Mohan, the Indian-origin woman at NASA who is a part of the team that successfully landed the rover Perseverance on Mars.

As NASA's ambitious Perseverance made a successful landing on the surface of Mars. This was not just a big milestone in human understanding of the planets around earth but a win for the scientists behind the project, who devoted years of hard work. A noteworthy mention among the many scientists behind this project is one of Indian-origin, Dr Swati Mohan.

Dr. Swati Mohan has been heading NASA's Operations for the Mars 2020 Guidance, Navigation, and Controls (GN&C).

Although the Indian-American scientist might have grown up in the US, she considers herself very close to her Indian upbringing and roots. Most of the time she wears her Indian culture - we could see her wearing a bindi quite often, even when she was leading the landing operation last night.

publive-image Dr. Swati Mohan during the crucial minutes before landing (Credits: NASA Youtube)

Here's what you need to know about the genius mind Dr. Swati Mohan:

  • Dr. Swati Mohan came from India to USA when she was just one-year-old. She spent most of her childhood in Northern Virginia-Washington DC metro area. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering from Cornell University and completed her M.S. and PhD in Aeronautics/Astronautics from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Perseverance Credits: NASA Youtube Screenshot

  • She has worked on other missions of NASA such as Cassini (fourth space probe to visit Saturn and the first to enter its orbit) and GRAIL (lunar science mission which used high-quality gravitational field mapping of the Moon to determine its interior structure).

Swati worked on Mars 2020 mission, which took rover named Perseverance to Mars, from almost the beginning of the project, i.e since 2013.

  • As stated earlier, she is currently the Mars 2020 Guidance, Navigation, and Controls Operations Lead, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
  • Moreover, she was the lead systems engineer throughout the project's development as well as the key communicator between the GN&C subsystem and the rest of the project’s team. She looks after the team, scheduled the mission control staffing for the department, and is also in-charge of various the policies and procedures the GN&C follows in the mission control room.
  • Swati wanted to be a paediatrician until the age of 16. Although she always interested in space, but she didn't really know about opportunities to turn that interest into a job. "When I was 16, I took my first physics class. I was lucky enough to have a great teacher, and everything was so understandable and easy. That was when I really considered engineering, as a way to pursue space," she said.
  • As stated by Swati herself in NASA's official website, the inspiration which led to her pursuing a career in aeronautics was the science-fiction franchise Star Trek. She was fascinated by the beautiful depictions of the new regions of the universe when she watched her first episode of the show at the age of 9. "I remember thinking 'I want to do that. I want to find new and beautiful places in the universe.' The vastness of space holds so much knowledge that we have only begun to learn," she told.
  • About working with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Swati said, "It is an honor and privilege to work at JPL. Every day, there are so many exciting things happening that I am always in constant awe of what we get to do, and see, and learn, and the wonderful, incredibly talented people who make it possible. All the projects at JPL seek to expand human understanding, and are almost always first of a kind in some way. It's incredibly motivating to work in such an environment."

Feature Image Credits: NASA

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