Star Trek’ when she was nine and a physics class when she was 16 put Swati Mohan on the trajectory to Nasa — and she almost became a paediatrician along the way. On February 18, hers was the voice which announced that Perseverance, an SUV-sized rover which will look for ancient life on Mars, had landed. “I came home to my family and hugged them. They were super proud,” she told Chandrima Banerjee on Tuesday.
After eight years as the Mars 2020 Guidance, Navigation & Controls lead, overseeing “the eyes and ears of the spacecraft”, Mohan said none of it would have been possible without diversity. “Everybody built from the strengths of one another, so the capability of the full team was more than the sum of the individual people.”
At home, too, the confluence of cultures shaped who she is: “I was a year old when I moved from India to the US. I am Indian as much as I am American. My parents raised me with very strong Indian values … So we were able to take the best of both worlds and integrate it into who we are.”