FROM INDIA TO SPACE

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Meet Dr Swati Mohan, a simple unassuming Indian-American woman, or so it seems until you get to know who she really is and the amazing stuff she’s been up to. Swati works at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States and is the Guidance, Navigations and Control Operations Lead for the Mars 2020 mission. The Mars 2020 mission is a mission by NASA to send a spacecraft into Mars, to check for signs of pre-existing life on the red planet.  She led the attitude control system (the attitude control system points the spacecraft where it needs to be and helps figure out where the spacecraft is oriented in space) of Mars 2020 during operations, and was the lead systems engineer throughout the development of Perseverance rover (the spacecraft sent to Mars). Hers was the voice that was heard narrating the landing events as Perseverance rover landed on Mars on February 18, 2021.

Swati Mohan moved to the United States when she was a year old and her interest in space began at the age of 9 after seeing the movie ‘Star Trek’. She had initially wanted to become a Paediatrician, but taking a Physics class at the age of 16 helped solidify her initial interest in space and she decided to study Engineering as a route to pursue this interest. She studied Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University, and obtained her Master’s degree and PhD in Aeronautics and Astronautics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both in the United States.

Before working on the Mars 2020 project, Swati had worked on the Cassini Mission to Saturn (another planet) and GRAIL, a pair of small aircraft which mapped the gravitational field of the moon. She is married to Dr. Santhosh Nadipuram, a paediatric infectious disease physician and research scientist.

Dr Swati Mohan is a huge inspiration to girls around the world. At the STEM Belle, we are particularly inspired by women like Swati, and motivated to continue to attract, retain and advance more girls into STEM fields. We look forward to putting the first African woman in space,and are convinced that we are close to achieving this. Indeed, women and girls can be anything – elegant in stilettos and confident in steel toes!

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