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The Women Who Made the Arrival on Mars a Reality

Involved in every step of the planning, construction, and arrival of Perseverance to Mars, several women boldly charted a path for the future of girls and humanity. These are some of the many women who have been crucial in this great step in history.

The Woman Post | Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

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NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover landed on Thursday, February 18, after nearly seven months of space navigation. The overall objective of the mission is to search for signs of ancient life and collect samples through the rover's advanced exploration technology. The robot weighs one ton and is equipped with a robotic arm of more than two meters, 19 cameras, and, for the first time, two microphones and its own helicopter.

Involved in every step of the planning, construction, and arrival of Perseverance to Mars, several women boldly charted a path for the future of girls and humanity. For the first time, a planetary landing was broadcasted by NASA in Spanish, thanks to the perseverance and work of many Hispanic and Latina women like Diana Trujillo, a Colombian aerospace engineer who has been part of missions to Mars for a decade and was recently named one of the four surface flight directors for the NASA mission Perseverance. These are some of the many women who have been crucial in this great step in history.

Diana Trujillo

Diana is an aerospace engineer who emigrated from Colombia to the United States. She is the leader of the engineering team for the Rover's robotic arm. This woman, who showed her passion for space while hosting the first broadcast in Spanish, has worked for years to make visible the work of women and Latino communities in STEM careers. As she said in an interview “I came here when I was 17 years old, I learned English when I got here. I came to work at NASA as a Hispanic woman who represents many people who did not think they could be a part of this, but maybe one day they will. I am very happy to know that I am part of a group that can change history.”

Yajaira Sierra-Sastre

Doctor in Nanomaterials Chemistry and Specialist in the bio-nanofabrication of semiconductor nanowires, Yajaira Sierra Sastre is a Puerto Rican materials scientist, educator, and aspiring astronaut. For Mars Perseverance, she works as a Project Manager for the Mars Sample Return mission that will bring the samples that Perseverance collects to earth. When interviewed about the advice she would give to Latina women interested in a career in space science, during the live broadcast of the arrival on Mars, she said: “Here we are, Diana, Servidora, me, many Latina women interested in connecting with you, to be mentors and put our community skills as Hispanics to help each other and persevere together.”

Swati Mohan

Dr. Swati Mohan is a scientist of Indian descent who plays the role of Guidance, Navigation, and Control Operations Leader on this mission. She narrated the exciting moment of landing and confirmed that the rover had survived the challenging entry into the Martian atmosphere. “Entry descent and landing is often referred to as the seven minutes of terror, because it takes around seven minutes to get from the top of the atmosphere of Mars to the ground, safely,” she said before the day of the landing. It was her voice that announced: "Touchdown confirmed safely on the surface of Mars." Behind that voice is a lifetime's work for space exploration, being involved in other missions like NASA's Cassini mission to Saturn.

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Jennifer Trosper

Deputy Project Director Jennifer Trosper has worked in management and systems leadership roles at Mars Pathfinder, Mars Exploration Rovers, and Mars Science Laboratory. After landing, the hard work is just beginning, as the samples to be collected will reach the earth in 2031. The landing was smooth, and the excitement of Dr. Jennifer Trosper was evident in an interview with Nature: "I almost feel like we're in a dream." In this video, she explains the many ways NASA Persevere has been upgraded from its rover predecessors.

Mimi Aung

Project Manager and Electronic Engineer Mimi Aung shares her enthusiasm for the first 1.8-kilogram helicopter to fly in the thin environment of Mars. The engineer of Burmese descent emigrated when she was sixteen, daughter of the first woman to earn a doctorate in mathematics in Myanmar, she showed interest in space science from her high school days. The reality of the first helicopter part of a rover began with the question of whether it was possible. The result of years of work has been that, in addition to flying, the helicopter can operate and survive autonomously on Mars. Engineer Mimi Aung speaks with great joy about the gratifying sense of success in her team: "After all these tests, analyses and simulations, our team now gets the chance to test, prove and learn how (the Ingenuity Mars helicopter) works in the actual environment of Mars. Our team cannot ask for a better reward than that."

Nina Lanza

With a Ph.D. in Earth and Planetary Sciences, Nina Lanza is a Planetary and Space Exploration Team Leader at Los Alamos National Laboratory. She is on the science teams for the ChemCam instrument and the Super Cam microphone, which will collect and record the first real audio from Mars. In this video, she explains how the same audio would be recorded differently on Earth and how much we can learn about the Martian atmosphere through studying the propagation of audio there. "Having a sound from another planet is another way that we can start to realize that it feels familiar," she told Space.com.

Chloe Sackier

Chloe Sackier is an Aerospace Engineer in charge of entry, descent, and landing communications systems. This means that she is part of the team responsible of ensuring that the spacecraft communicates properly and that the data generated reaches the orbiters. When asked what excites her about space and the exploration of Mars, in particular, she responded to NASA: “Space is truly the last frontier to explore, and it takes so many people to design, build, test and operate our robotic explorers out in that unforgiving environment. In particular, Mars is a thrilling travel destination because it has so many parallels to Earth and contains the answers to so many universal questions.”

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