An Indian could steer 1st outing of Perseverance

5 months ago 15

MELBOURNE/MUMBAI: When the Perseverance rover starts rolling on Mars, possibly next week, an Indian might be among 14 at the console. “It’s a short forward drive, followed by a turn and a backup (backward drive),”

Vandana

“Vandi”

Verma

, chief engineer of

Mars

2020 robotic operations, told TOI.
“Since this is the first drive, we will split it into segments and collect a lot of data and imaging for analysis.” The daughter of an IAF fighter pilot, Verma was born at

Jamnagar

in

Gujarat

and kept moving. “I grew up around airplanes,” she said. “When I got my pilot’s licence in the US, I didn’t tell my mom. She wouldn’t want me to do anything dangerous.
When I was growing up, the IAF would not take in women. In Pittsburgh, Iflew a lot … even in

France

.” “When I was seven, I was gifted a book on space and astronomy. Then, I’d go to the library after school, pick a book about space and astronomy, climb a tree and read,” she said.
She got her PhD in robotics at the Carnegie-Mellon University in 1994 and started “driving” on Mars in 2008 — Spirit,

Opportunity

, Curiosity and, now, Perseverance. “Driving a rover is a lot of fun! You have to have the mindset of an explorer, an engineer and that of a roboticist,” said Verma. “You think of all obstacles it’ll encounter —like the rover slipping… We don’t get second chances.”

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