Kool Kanya News

Swati Mohan: From Star Trek to NASA’s Perseverance Mars Landing

. 3 min read . Written by Shayri Bhattacharya
Swati Mohan: From Star Trek to NASA’s Perseverance Mars Landing

An ardent Star Trek fan, Swati Mohan had millions of space enthusiasts around the globe hold their breath in anticipatory suspense up until she exclaimed, “Touchdown confirmed!” to a room full of elated scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) on Thursday, February 18th. 

Swati, an Indian American space engineer who grew up in North Virginia and Washington DC,  was in charge of the Guidance, Navigation and Controls Operations (GN&C) for the historic landing of the mars rover “Perseverance”. “The GN&C are the eyes and ears of the rover”, explained Swati.

Over the course of her career at NASA, she has worked with the Cassini mission to Saturn and GRAIL – a pair formation flown to the Moon. She has been a part of the Mars 2020 mission since its inception in 2013. 

Swati stated that she was an ardent fan of Star Trek – the popular TV show – since she was nine years of age. It acted as a major source of inspiration for her when she decided that she wanted to “find new and beautiful places in the universe” and eventually joined Cornell University to study Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. She followed her Bachelor’s degree up with a Masters in Science, and a subsequent Ph.D from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Aeronautics. 

When asked about her childhood, Swati responds by highlighting the role played by her teacher in influencing her to take up engineering. She believes that she was lucky enough to be taught science in a way that made it easy and understandable for her. 

Swati also shed some more light on her team’s role in the Mars mission. Mohan said their job was to gauge the orientation of the spacecraft during the cruise phase heading towards Mars, to ensure that it was pointed correctly in space, and to manoeuvre the spacecraft to help it travel and land safely. As the team’s operations lead, Swati is the primary point of communication between the GN&C subsystem and the rest of the project. Her work also included training the GN&C team, scheduling the mission control staffing for GN&C and preparing the policies and procedures to be used by the GN&C in the mission control room.

Continue Reading Below.

“A Small Price To Pay”: Women Take The Mic At The Farmer’s Protests

“Corona Warriors” – Exploring The Celebration Of Motherhood During Lockdown

Seeing an Indian-origin woman performing such a wondrous feat on an international platform in the arena of STEM, made several notable Indians take cognisance of her achievements and state “representation matters”. 

One hopes that the sensational achievements of Dr. Swati Mohan inspires more women to take up STEM, and discourages those dissuading women of colour from entering this field and making their mark. 

You’re invited! Join the Kool Kanya women-only career Community where you can network, ask questions, share your opinions, collaborate on projects, and discover new opportunities. Join now.