NASA’s “Perseverance” Team Led by Women and Minority Scientists


NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover mission was led by a diverse group of scientists, many of them women and minorities. Adriana Diaz has more on her stories.

Video transcript

ADRIANA DIAZ: We end tonight with this incredible panorama of Mars captured by NASA’s newest robotic rover, the Perseverance rover. But what also caught our attention was not on Mars, it was inside Mission Control.

SWATI MOHAN: Touchdown confirmed.

It was the voice that was heard throughout the world.

SWATI MOHAN: Perseverance safe on the surface of Mars.

Swati Mohan of NASA was not just a commentator.

SWATI MOHAN: About to perform the SkyCrane maneuver.

She leads the space controls team.

How did you feel when you said the words “confirmed touchdown”?

SWATI MOHAN: I was still a bit in shock.

Mohan moved to the United States from India when he was one year old. She is among more than a dozen women of color on Perseverance’s core team of roughly 300.

What was it like for you, Christina, when you were watching and listening to Swati?

CHRISTINA HERNANDEZ: I was like, yeah, girl! I was so excited to see a woman who, A, is not only giving so much to the community, but is a technical beast.

Engineer Christina Hernández, who is a first-generation Mexican American, helped develop the rover’s science instruments.

And Moogega Cooper, who is half black and half Korean, leads the team that ensures there are no pollutants left on Mars.

There is no perfect team out there, you know? Diversity can always be improved. But man, when I look around and see female leaders and engineers, it just warms my heart.

What do you do for NASA?

Calculate your launch and landing site.

NASA’s historic struggles with diversity are documented in “Hidden Figures,” the true story of the African-American mathematics that played a vital role in the space race.

It is not that far away generationally. My father tells me how he served in a segregated unit in the Navy. Of all groups of people, I have the greatest faith that scientists can think beyond what society says and be more inclusive of others.

Diversity is about different points of view. And when trying to solve these complex problems, we must be able to think outside the box.

Have any of you ever come across someone who said they can’t be an engineer or they can’t work for NASA?

There are always times when it’s like, inside, you wonder, oh, is it because I’m young? Is it because I am a young woman? Is it because I am a young black woman? But you must keep moving towards the stars.

Growing up, not everyone could afford luxuries like a space camp. But their families found a way.

If there wasn’t a local library, if we didn’t have PBS, which is free, those things make it accessible regardless of your income.

Those struggles just made us even better at our job. As my grandmother says, she says [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. So, you know, “give it your all.” And that’s, I think, what we all do at Mars Perseverance.

ADRIANA DIAZ: They say their greatest passion is helping the next generation.

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