Fil-Am engineer part of NASA's Mars 'Perseverance' team

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 23 2021 11:03 AM

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MANILA - After a 7-month journey, NASA’s Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars on Thursday, in search of signs of ancient microbial life. 

Part of the team that made that happen is Filipino-American engineer Genevie Yang who said that the Mars rover landing was a story of hope.

"Sometimes, you hear too much negativity in the news like COVID cases going up, there's attacks, there's politics as well. But this story is about hope and how we can put our differences aside and no matter what your background is... together we can just accomplish anything," she told ANC.

Yang, a data management engineer at the US space agency's jet propulsion laboratory, said she was involved in testing the robotic vehicle's flight software.

"For Mars 2020 Perseverance, I tested the flight software to make sure that they're meeting the requirements and then I also moved on to the uplink team to generate commands to strengthen the spacecraft while we are at launch cruise," she said.

She also worked on Perseverance's predecessor, the science rover Curiosity, which landed in 2012 and remains in operation.

Yang said the Perseverance rover would gather samples of Martian rocks and soil, which would be returned to Earth for detailed analysis.

The new rover is also equipped with the Ingenuity Mars helicopter, which will be deployed to attempt the first experimental flight test on another planet.

"It will scout out the terrain so we can see what lies ahead and all the scientists can look and find the best spot for like to investigate," Yang said.

Yang said the successful touchdown on the Red Planet was the product of years of planning. 

"We have to get a launch vehicle to get us up to Mars. It takes months of cruising through the outer space and then we have to go through landing. So, all of that takes a lot of work," Yang said.

"There's like 10 years of planning for this mission before we even got to launch. We have to write proposals. We have to get the team together to test all our objective [and] all our requirements for making sure the vehicle will do what it's meant to do."

The Perseverance rover will stay on the Red Planet for 1 Martian year, which equates to 2 Earth years.

NASA scientists have described Perseverance as the most ambitious of nearly 20 US missions to Mars dating back to the Mariner spacecraft's 1965 fly-by.