Meet the People Behind NASA’s Perseverance Rover


These are the scientists and engineers who built NASA’s next Mars rover and who will guide it to a safe landing in Jezero Crater.


Behind every spacecraft there are stories of hope, passion and creativity from the people who design and build these complex machines. In the case of NASA’s next Mars rover, there has also been no shortage of perseverance.

The new video series “Behind the Spacecraft” profiles some of the many engineers and scientists working tirelessly to send the agency’s Perseverance rover to Mars. The team is on track to launch Perseverance in July or August and land in Mars’ Jezero Crater in February 2021.

Sending a rover to the Red Planet is more than just 3…2…1… Liftoff! It takes 1,000s of people and years of hard work to get a spacecraft from Earth to Mars. So when NASA’s Perseverance rover touches down on the Martian surface, it will be because of the talented NASA minds that helped to make it happen.

In these videos, you’ll learn not only about what it’s like to work on such a mission but also about the diverse backgrounds and career trajectories of seven Perseverance team members at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California:

  • Katie Stack Morgan is a deputy project scientist with the mission. Her passion for geology led her to the red rocks of Mars, and she can’t wait to look for signs of ancient microbial life with Perseverance.
  • Moo Stricker‘s job is to make sure the rover is as clean as possible before it lands on Mars. This is important, because if the mission does detect signs of past microbial life, scientists will need to be confident that they’re not just seeing germs that hitched a ride from Earth.
  • Al Chen leads the landing team for Perseverance, which carries a new navigation system for touching down in more difficult locations. Landing Mars robots is a family affair for him: His wife, fellow systems engineer Julie Wertz Chen, ensured the InSight lander safely touched down in 2018.
  • Heather Bottom, a former professional dancer, is now helping choreograph the rover’s launch and journey to Mars. As a systems engineer, she makes sure that all the complicated parts work together as a cohesive whole.
  • Michelle Tomey Colizzi helped assemble the spacecraft in a JPL clean room, focusing on the aeroshell, a capsule that will keep Perseverance safe from the ravages of space travel during its interplanetary trip to Mars.
  • Diana Trujillo paid her way through college by cleaning houses, but now, through her work on the rover’s robotic arm, she is helping to find out whether there might have been ancient life on Mars. (This profile is also in Spanish.)
  • Eric Aguilar oversees a laboratory where engineers test engineering models of rover subsystems to make sure they work as expected on Earth before the rover gets down to business on Mars.

The full video series can be watched here.

JPL will also be hosting live chats with these team members at youtube.com/NASAJPL/ on Thursdays, starting today at 1 p.m. PDT (4 p.m. EDT). Questions can be submitted via social media using the #askNASA hashtag or in the YouTube chat.

Perseverance is a six-wheeled robot that weighs about 2,260-pounds (1,025-kilograms). It has a suite of scientific instruments that will not only seek out signs of ancient microbial life but also characterize Mars’ climate and geology, ultimately helping us prepare for a future human expedition to the planet. Perseverance will collect samples of rock and soil for a future return trip to Earth.

The video series was produced by NASA 360 Productions.

Mars 2020 is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans.

For more information about the mission, go to:

https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/

For more about NASA’s Moon to Mars plans, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/topics/moon-to-mars

News Media Contact

Ian J. O’Neill
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-2649
ian.j.oneill@jpl.nasa.gov

Jia-Rui Cook
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-0724
jccook@jpl.nasa.gov

2020-085

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    Federal agencies, including the Department of Energy (DOE) and the separately organized National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) within DOE, and uranium industry representatives have identified risks to the commercial supply chain for uranium needed for defense purposes. Such uranium may need to be mined domestically and enriched using U.S. technology to be free of obligations for the peaceful use of uranium and certain technology imported under international agreements. Identified risks to the unobligated uranium supply chain include (1) possible loss of domestic uranium mining capabilities and (2) possible challenges in re-starting the only facility in the United States for converting natural uranium into a form suitable for use in enrichment operations. Further, the U.S. has not had an operating enrichment capability that uses U.S. technology since 2013. Idle Domestic Plant for Converting Uranium to a Form Suitable for Enrichment DOE and NNSA have initiated actions officials believe will mitigate such risks to the unobligated uranium supply chain. For example, DOE and NNSA have both taken steps to reestablish a domestic enrichment capability with U.S. technology. In addition, DOE has proposed creation of a domestic uranium reserve to help support the domestic uranium mining and conversion industries until market conditions improve. DOE's fiscal year 2021 budget request includes $150 million for the reserve. However, we cannot conclude that the estimate is reasonable because it is unclear how the funding needs for the reserve were determined. By providing a more complete analysis to support future funding requests for the reserve, DOE could better provide assurance that such requests would achieve objectives. The Nuclear Fuel Working Group's strategy to mitigate risks to the domestic uranium industry does not fully incorporate all desirable characteristics GAO has identified for a national strategy. For example, it does not identify (1) the level of resources needed to support proposed actions or (2) an interagency coordinating mechanism. DOE is developing an implementation plan for the strategy, but DOE officials provided conflicting statements about the extent to which the agency will coordinate interagency implementation. NNSA has several defense needs for enriched uranium, including low-enriched uranium to produce tritium for nuclear weapons. To meet these needs, NNSA relies on commercial sectors of the domestic uranium industry, such as uranium mining or enrichment, which make up a supply chain for unobligated uranium. However, this industry faces commercial viability risks. In April 2020, the President's Nuclear Fuel Working Group released a strategy to mitigate risks to the domestic uranium industry. This working group includes DOE, the Department of Defense, and other agencies. Senate Report 115-262 included a provision that GAO review NNSA's planning for the future supply of unobligated enriched uranium. This report examines (1) risks agencies and others have identified to the unobligated uranium supply chain and agency actions to mitigate those risks, and (2) the extent to which the Nuclear Fuel Working Group's risk mitigation strategy incorporates desirable characteristics of a national strategy. GAO analyzed key NNSA and DOE planning documents and interviewed NNSA and other agency officials and industry representatives. GAO is making three recommendations, including that DOE improve its cost estimate to support future funding requests for the proposed uranium reserve and ensure its implementation plan for the strategy addresses each of the desirable characteristics of a national strategy. DOE concurred with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact at (202) 512-3821 or bawdena@gao.gov.
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  • Appeals Court Upholds 27 Month Prison Sentence Of Former Penn National Horse Trainer
    In Crime News
    The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that on Jan. 11, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed both the conviction and 27-month prison sentence of Murray Rojas, age, 54, of Grantville, Pennsylvania. That sentence was imposed by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Sylvia H. Rambo on May 6, 2019, after Rojas was convicted by a jury on multiple counts of causing prescription animal drugs to become misbranded in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), as well as conspiracy to commit misbranding.
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  • Justice Department Reaches Major Olmstead Settlement Agreement with North Dakota
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced a settlement agreement with the State of North Dakota under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The agreement resolves complaints alleging that North Dakota unnecessarily institutionalizes individuals with disabilities in nursing facilities, instead of providing them the services they need to live in the community.
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  • VA Disability Benefits: Process for Identifying Conditions Presumed to be Service Connected and Challenges in Processing Complex Gulf War Illness Claims
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO has reported on the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) use of research to identify and add new illnesses to its list of presumptive conditions for both Gulf War Illness and Agent Orange—a tactical herbicide used extensively during the Vietnam Era. VA entered into agreements with the National Academy of Sciences to assess the link between certain exposures and illnesses experienced by veterans, and uses the Academy's findings to inform its lists of presumptive conditions. GAO also reported in 2017 that VA did not have a single set of uniform criteria to define Gulf War Illness (a case definition) that could improve research, clinical diagnosis, and treatment of Gulf War veterans. GAO recommended that VA prepare and document a plan to develop a single case definition. In response, VA convened a group of subject matter experts from VA and the Department of Defense to create a multi-step plan to develop a case definition. According to VA, it is in the final stages of the plan and will bring together experts in 2021 to review new research and work toward delineating a definition. Further, according to VA, the department continues to support research on conditions related to Gulf War service as well as Agent Orange exposure and will use the findings to consider future presumptive conditions. In 2017, GAO reported on challenges that VA faced in processing complex, presumptive disability claims for veterans who served in the Gulf War—claims that were being denied at higher rates than other disability claims. At the time of GAO's review, VA officials stated that Gulf War Illness claims may be denied at a higher rate, in part, because they are not always well understood by VA staff, and veterans sometimes do not have medical records to adequately support their claims. The challenges we identified included: Inconsistent requests for disability medical exams. VA claims processors can request that a veteran undergo a disability medical exam to help determine whether the conditions in the claim exist and are linked to service. GAO found that claims processors were inconsistent in asking for an exam, in part, due to confusion about the guidance. VA issued training on the topic and in April 2017 completed a review of Gulf War claims to assess the effectiveness of the training and help ensure future consistency. Inconsistent disability medical exam reports. Veterans Health Administration disability medical examiners did not always complete medical exam reports properly and sometimes offered a medical opinion when one was not necessary. GAO recommended that VA require all examiners to complete Gulf War medical exam training before conducting these exams, and VA implemented this recommendation. Since our 2017 report, VA has allowed contracted medical examiners to complete these exams, and in 2018 GAO found VA was not monitoring whether all contractors completed required training. GAO recommended VA improve its oversight of training, but the department has not fully implemented this recommendation from GAO's 2018 report. VA provides disability compensation to millions of veterans with service-connected disabilities. Veterans are generally entitled to these benefits if they can prove their injuries or illnesses were incurred or aggravated by active military service. For certain claims, VA presumes a condition is due to a veteran's service. For example, VA can provide benefits to any veteran with certain symptoms, from respiratory disorders to gastrointestinal issues, who served in Southwest Asia from 1990 to the present, without the veteran needing to prove cause. GAO refers to these as Gulf War Illness claims. In 2017, GAO issued Gulf War Illness: Improvements Needed for VA to Better Understand, Process, and Communicate Decisions on Claims ( GAO-17-511 ), which identified needed improvements in VA's processing of Gulf War Illness claims. In 2018, GAO issued Agent Orange: Actions Needed to Improve Accuracy and Communication of Information on Testing and Storage Locations ( GAO-19-24 ). This statement summarizes information from these reports on how VA determined certain presumptive conditions and challenges VA faced with processing Gulf War Illness claims. In GAO's 2017 report, it recommended that VA develop a plan to establish a single case definition of Gulf War Illness and make Gulf War Illness training mandatory for medical examiners. VA implemented the recommendations. For more information, contact Elizabeth Curda at (202) 512-7215 or curdae@gao.gov.
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  • Justice Department Reaches Settlement with San Antonio Housing Providers for Charging Unlawful Lease Termination Fees to Servicemembers
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced that it has reached an agreement with the former owners of two apartment complexes in San Antonio, Texas, to resolve allegations that they violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) by imposing unlawful lease termination charges on 41 servicemembers and by refusing to allow four other servicemembers to terminate their leases early.
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  • Sixth Former Tennessee Corrections Officer Pleads Guilty to Federal Offenses Arising out of a Cover Up of Staff Assault of an Inmate
    In Crime News
    Former Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) Corporal Tommy Morris, 29, pleaded guilty to conspiring to cover up the beating of an inmate and to encouraging other officers to provide false information to investigators, the Justice Department announced today.
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  • Justice Department Signs Antitrust Memorandum of Understanding with Korean Prosecution Service
    In Crime News
    Yesterday, the Department of Justice signed an antitrust Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Korean Prosecution Service (KPS). The MOU is designed to promote increased cooperation and communication on criminal antitrust enforcement and policy in both countries.
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  • Briefing With State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Scott W. Busby
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • 2020 Indo-Pacific Business Forum Promotes Free and Open Indo-Pacific
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • North Carolina Man Charged with Fraudulently Seeking Over $6 Million in COVID Relief Funds
    In Crime News
    A North Carolina man was charged with fraudulently seeking over $6 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Robert J. Higdon Jr. of the Eastern District of North Carolina.
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    In Travel
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    In Human Health, Resources and Services
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    In Travel
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