As NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars on Thursday after seven months in space, it was Indian-American scientist Dr Swati Mohan who confirmed the mission’s success. “Touchdown confirmed! Perseverance is safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking the signs of past life,” Dr Mohan announced soon after the rover landed, as cheers erupted in NASA JPL’s mission control room in California. The video, released by NASA has now gone viral, with many around the globe commenting on her calm demeanour. Indians also pointed out that the NASA operations lead was sporting a bindi.
“The spacecraft @NASAPersevere is currently transmitting heartbeat tones — these tones indicate that Perseverance is operating normally.”
— NASA (@NASA) February 18, 2021
Photos of the NASA engineer quickly went viral, along with praises for her pivotal role in the mission, others felt proud as she comfortably represented her cultural heritage.
If you watched the Mars landing today, the voice you heard was @DrSwatiMohan. She immigrated to the US from India at age 1, was inspired by Star Trek at 9, then earned a B.S from Cornell in mechanical and aerospace engineering, and an M.S. and Ph.D from MIT in aeronautics. pic.twitter.com/mHZQmz3iPD
— Paul Rogers (@PaulRogersSJMN) February 18, 2021
The NASA scientist emigrated from India to the United States with her family when she was just a year old. Most of her childhood was spent in the Northern Virginia-Washington DC area. She graduated from the Cornell University and completed her MS and PhD from MIT in aeronautics.
To see a women in STEM in such a leading position moved many across social media platforms. Many thanked her saying she today has not only successfully completed the difficult mission but also inspired a new generation of scientists, underlining “representation matters”. Taking about the bindi, some lamented that in their childhood days, they were bullied for wearing one, so it’s a pretty big deal for Swati to wear it at NASA and own it.
i wore a bindi through primary school and got bullied, physically bullied, for it. this is doing all kinds of things to me. 🥲
swati mohan in mission control, thank you. #NASAPerseverance
— Anuradha Damale (@anulikesstars) February 18, 2021
— Karthik (@iamnkarthik) February 20, 2021
Got choked up seeing @DrSwatiMohan and showed my daughter. First thing she said, “look she’s wearing bindi too AND driving a rocket.” – (she’s 4 lol) Representation matters so much. Dr Mohan is a rockstar- thank you. <3https://t.co/1Si2zIltn0
— Neeha Curtis (@NeehaCurtis) February 19, 2021
She is wearing a pottu. I can’t express how much this is making me emotional. Being a minority everywhere meant that I stopped wearing pottu to fit in with the dominant culture. https://t.co/zGPpTb1aSO
— Mani Pillai (@ManiPillai1886) February 18, 2021
— Omkar Bomble (@OBOMKARBOMBLE) February 19, 2021
— Dr. Parshati Patel (@ParshatiPatel) February 18, 2021
Women can achieve ANY goal they put their mind, heart and soul into. Such a beautiful smile.
— karingkarin (@karin_beebe) February 20, 2021
The epitome of calm and grace under pressure. Hat’s off to you Dr.!
— 🆂🅰🆁🅰🅷 🅻🅰🅵🅵🅴🆁🆃🆈 (@ladylaff) February 19, 2021
My daughters and I watched @DrSwatiMohan, bindi and all, expertly doing her thing today! My eldest is interested in engineering, so it was inspiring to see a fellow South Asian woman having a prominent seat at Mission Control.#RepresentationMatters #IfYouCanSeeHerYouCanBeHer https://t.co/j6AphQynkf
— Booksnbikes (@Books_n_bikes) February 19, 2021
So many talented, amazing scientists and engineers on TV as we watch the #MarsLanding, but my 8-year-old stopped and asked, “Hey, mom, who’s that?” when he saw this engineer at work 👇🏽 Why do you think that is? #RepresentationMatters
Thanks, @DrSwatiMohan ❤️ pic.twitter.com/5acDN9b0Nw
— Anjali Joshi (@Anjali_Joshi_) February 18, 2021
I was there as a visitor, and now that I see a real Indian female engineer @DrSwatiMohan there, it’s a solid proof that I still have hope in the world!#RepresentationMatters #WomenInSTEM https://t.co/KYqM3BhsCl
— Maria Vincent (@themariavincent) February 19, 2021
This is so wonderful to hear. I had tears in my eyes to hear a woman’s voice. I was told as a kid in the ’60s that space was for men only. Thank you, Dr Mohan!
— Heather-Rose Ryan ☘️🦉🌞🌎 (@HeatherRoseRya1) February 19, 2021
“I’ve been on Perseverance longer than I’ve been at any school. I’ve been on Perseverance longer than my younger daughter is alive. It’s just taken up such a large portion of my life for so long,” Dr Mohan told Florida Today.
Talking how the pandemic added stress to the already difficult mission, she added: “The last three to four years especially, then the pandemic on top of it has kind of added another layer of stress.”