Dr. Swati Mohan: The Role of this Indian Origin Woman in Making NASA's Mars Mission a Success

Dr. Swati Mohan: The Role of this Indian Origin Woman in Making NASA's Mars Mission a Success
Via: Twitter

NASA's most important Mars mission so far, has landed on Mars. In this mission of NASA, an Indian-origin scientist named Dr. Swati Mohan is also involved.


Dr. Swati Mohan , lead of Navigation and Control Operations, Mars 2020 Guidance of NASA's Persistence Project , spoke to BBC correspondent Vineet Khare in Washington .


Dr. Swati is currently in Los Angeles. Read excerpts from his conversation.


How did you spend the last few hours after years of work ?


It is all like a little dream. Whatever happened on Thursday was a demonstration of success. Everything had to be fine on Thursday.


Dr. Swati Mohan: The Role of this Indian Origin Woman in Making NASA's Mars Mission a Success
Via: Twitter


Thousands of people who worked on this project gave their heart, their soul to this project. And everyone had to do their best.


Do you remember what was going on in your mind during those last minutes?


As a mission commentator, I was very focused on what was happening and what I had to say based on it. Everything had to be perfect in those moments.


As soon as there was one thing, I used to see what the next thing was going to be. Then next. It kept going. I did not have much energy nor time to understand what was happening.


When I announced the touchdown and people started celebrating and then realized that we did it. We reached the surface of Mars and everything happened as we thought.


Dr. Swati Mohan: The Role of this Indian Origin Woman in Making NASA's Mars Mission a Success
Via: Twitter

You eight years to remain attached to the project. It has been a long time . What were the experiences during this time ?


I feel very happy and for me it feels like something sour and sweet. We had been working together for eight years in a team and had become like a family. I feel a little sad that maybe our paths will be separated by the next week, but it is a privilege for me to be a part of it.


The first thing I sacrificed for this work was my sleep. From the moment the work of connecting the hardware started, I was on the phone because we were constantly testing. Sometimes adding flight hardware, then testing it, sometimes more. My phone was always with me.


Dr. Swati Mohan: The Role of this Indian Origin Woman in Making NASA's Mars Mission a Success
Via: Twitter

My phone battery was always charged so that I could answer everything if needed. Continuously maintaining that level of energy has been a bit intimidating. My family also had to make many sacrifices. I had to go to the office at any time, sometimes I had to go to the lab early if some issue was raised. My family supported me in this work.


How was your journey at NASA and what were your best days of this journey?


That when I was in high school, I decided to make a career in the field of space. And space in America means NASA. That's why I researched everything about NASA.


When I was in high school, my first internship was at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. After that I went to Cornell to study and during the summer of that year I learned to work in Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Then I did an internship at Kennedy Space Center. In graduate school, I got an opportunity to join NASA Johnson Space Center, NASA Marshall Center.


Dr. Swati Mohan: The Role of this Indian Origin Woman in Making NASA's Mars Mission a Success
Via: Twitter

In this way, I got the opportunity to see the space industry from a different perspective, whether it is from different NASA centers or with the help of research being conducted at Cornel and MIT. It helped me to make my place.


How did you get inspired from Star Trek at a very young age ?


Yes When I was nine or ten years old, I watched an episode of the well-known television serial Star Trek. In this episode, the Enterprise is thrown into a corner of the sky and then beautiful pictures of the space are seen.


I remember how good I thought it would have been if I had been on the enterprise so that I could learn about new things in space, discover them. Then I reached the Hubble Space Telescope with the help of photographs, and this trend.



When you came to America, you were just one year old . Have you been able to maintain relations with India?


Many of my distant relatives are still in India, especially in Bangalore. My grandparents have lived there for a long time.


Dr. Swati Mohan: The Role of this Indian Origin Woman in Making NASA's Mars Mission a Success
Via: Twitter

When I was growing up, I used to go to India to visit family and roam during summer vacation.


So could you talk to someone there?


People from everywhere have given so much love and so much congratulations that I have been overwhelmed. People have given so much respect that I still feel honored.


What were the technical challenges that troubled you during the mission, and how did you deal with those challenges?


While we were making the parachute, we realized that there were other things that we did not understand. To understand them, we had to start a test campaign so that changes could be made.


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The sample caching system is brand new (a system designed to replenish dust and pebbles from the surface of Mars back to Earth), which has been designed from the beginning to take care of cleanliness. Not only the cleanliness of the sample when it is inserted into the tube, but also how to keep it sealed and then how to bring that tube back to Earth from Mars. Also, keep in mind that no germs will go to Mars with the rover, which will be known later.


Countries like India also want to send a rover to Mars. Now you are part of the team that has successfully done this work , what would be your advice?


Dr. Swati Mohan: The Role of this Indian Origin Woman in Making NASA's Mars Mission a Success
Via: Twitter

It is very difficult to go to any planet. There are many things on which to work properly. Also, there are different challenges about going to every part of the planet, every day. And these things keep changing.


My advice would be that you constantly try and learn from the experiences of others. Sometimes you learn from your failures more than successes.

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