Who Is MiMi Aung? The Engineer Behind NASA’s First Helicopter On Mars

MiMi Aung
MiMi Aung: The American space agency NASA has successfully flown a helicopter on planet Mars on Monday, April 19.

The drone which flew in the planet’s atmosphere is called Ingenuity and was airborne for about 40 seconds and was the first controlled flight by an aircraft on another planet.

The project manager of the mission was MiMi Aung who is an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
A video of Aung is also going viral on Twitter in which she can be seen saying, “It’s Real!” and “We can say that humans have flown a rotorcraft on another planet.” Aung, who was the major force behind the project said that they were confident about the success of Ingenuity and have turned theory into a real event.

Who is MiMi Aung?

  • 53-year-old MiMi Aung is a Burmese-American engineer and is the project manager at JPL, who is the lead engineer on Ingenuity, which has become the first extraterrestrial aircraft. Aung was born in Illinois America, as her parent’s met each other in the U.S. while pursuing their doctorates.
  • Her mother Hla Hla Sein became the first woman with a doctoral degree in the field of Mathematics in Myanmar.
  • Aung spent her childhood in Myanmar as her parents returned to the country when she was about two and a half year old. She however became interested in space science while she was studying at a British High School and moved to the U.S. at 16 to pursue her education.
  • The NASA engineer studied electronic engineering at the University of Illinois and completed her master’s degree in the year 1990 in communication and signal processing.
  • Aung worked on several projects related to spaceflight and also on the NASA Deep Space Network (DSN) after joining JPL in 1990. She worked on many important projects starting from the Radio Frequency and Microwave Subsystems, Monopulse Radar Systems, Earth Orbiting System Microwave Limb Sounder to StarLight two spacecraft interferometer.
  • For the StarLight two spacecraft interferometer, Aung designed the autonomous formation radiofrequency flying sensor and was selected as the project element manager of the program. But after the funding for the project was indefinitely delayed, the project got cancelled in 2011.
  • In the year 2013, Aung was made the Deputy Manager of the Atmosphere System Division and lead for the Mars Helicopter in 2015. The first flight tests for the Mars helicopter was done in early 2019.
  • The helicopter was launched with the Perseverance rover in July of last year and landed on the planet on February 8 2021. NASA’s JPL received its first status report from Mars.
  • Aung has written for the British Magazine Spaceflight and is also an expert of The Planetary Society. In 2019, she was selected as one of the top 100 Women in the world by BBC.
  • The engineer also featured in the 2019 documentary Space Queens in which she talked about taking humanity to Mars till 2020 with the Perseverence rover.