January 29, 2022

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Meet the People Behind NASA’s Perseverance Rover

12 min read

These are the scientists and engineers who built NASA’s next Mars rover and who will guide it to a safe landing in Jezero Crater.


Behind every spacecraft there are stories of hope, passion and creativity from the people who design and build these complex machines. In the case of NASA’s next Mars rover, there has also been no shortage of perseverance.

The new video series “Behind the Spacecraft” profiles some of the many engineers and scientists working tirelessly to send the agency’s Perseverance rover to Mars. The team is on track to launch Perseverance in July or August and land in Mars’ Jezero Crater in February 2021.

Sending a rover to the Red Planet is more than just 3…2…1… Liftoff! It takes 1,000s of people and years of hard work to get a spacecraft from Earth to Mars. So when NASA’s Perseverance rover touches down on the Martian surface, it will be because of the talented NASA minds that helped to make it happen.

In these videos, you’ll learn not only about what it’s like to work on such a mission but also about the diverse backgrounds and career trajectories of seven Perseverance team members at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California:

  • Katie Stack Morgan is a deputy project scientist with the mission. Her passion for geology led her to the red rocks of Mars, and she can’t wait to look for signs of ancient microbial life with Perseverance.
  • Moo Stricker‘s job is to make sure the rover is as clean as possible before it lands on Mars. This is important, because if the mission does detect signs of past microbial life, scientists will need to be confident that they’re not just seeing germs that hitched a ride from Earth.
  • Al Chen leads the landing team for Perseverance, which carries a new navigation system for touching down in more difficult locations. Landing Mars robots is a family affair for him: His wife, fellow systems engineer Julie Wertz Chen, ensured the InSight lander safely touched down in 2018.
  • Heather Bottom, a former professional dancer, is now helping choreograph the rover’s launch and journey to Mars. As a systems engineer, she makes sure that all the complicated parts work together as a cohesive whole.
  • Michelle Tomey Colizzi helped assemble the spacecraft in a JPL clean room, focusing on the aeroshell, a capsule that will keep Perseverance safe from the ravages of space travel during its interplanetary trip to Mars.
  • Diana Trujillo paid her way through college by cleaning houses, but now, through her work on the rover’s robotic arm, she is helping to find out whether there might have been ancient life on Mars. (This profile is also in Spanish.)
  • Eric Aguilar oversees a laboratory where engineers test engineering models of rover subsystems to make sure they work as expected on Earth before the rover gets down to business on Mars.

The full video series can be watched here.

JPL will also be hosting live chats with these team members at youtube.com/NASAJPL/ on Thursdays, starting today at 1 p.m. PDT (4 p.m. EDT). Questions can be submitted via social media using the #askNASA hashtag or in the YouTube chat.

Perseverance is a six-wheeled robot that weighs about 2,260-pounds (1,025-kilograms). It has a suite of scientific instruments that will not only seek out signs of ancient microbial life but also characterize Mars’ climate and geology, ultimately helping us prepare for a future human expedition to the planet. Perseverance will collect samples of rock and soil for a future return trip to Earth.

The video series was produced by NASA 360 Productions.

Mars 2020 is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans.

For more information about the mission, go to:

https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/

For more about NASA’s Moon to Mars plans, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/topics/moon-to-mars

News Media Contact

Ian J. O’Neill
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-2649
ian.j.oneill@jpl.nasa.gov

Jia-Rui Cook
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-0724
jccook@jpl.nasa.gov

2020-085

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