Curiosity had Bobak. Now Perseverance has Swati.
Swati Mohan is the guidance and control operations lead for NASA's Mars 2020 mission, meaning she has basically been in charge of making sure the spacecraft carrying the Perseverance rover is oriented in the right direction. As Perseverance came in for its high-stakes landing Thursday, Mohan also provided much of the commentary from mission control during its tense entry, descent and landing.
A NASA veteran who was also on the Cassini mission, she has been on the Mars 2020 team since near its beginning in 2013.
As she walked the world through the steps of slowing a spacecraft down from over 12,000 miles per hour to make a soft landing in an ancient crater, Swati's star began to shine on social media. Mohan emigrated from India to the United States when she was a year old. A bindi could be seen on her forehead as she calmly announced each step of Perseverance's journey through her mask in mission control.
"I wore a bindi through primary school and got bullied, physically bullied for it," Anuradha Damale wrote on Twitter from London. "Swati Mohan in mission control, thank you."
Less obvious was the dyed braid in her hair she wore for the historic event, but it also made it online:
"Dr. Swati Mohan has inspired a new generation of scientists today," wrote astrophysicist Karan Jani.
Congrats to Mohan and the rest of the Mars 2020 team on a successful landing. Can't wait to follow the surface phase of the mission.
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