Mars has always held fascination to humans who made countless movies about little green Martians going to Earth. As one of our closest neighbors, plus the fact that it has land mass, Mars has become the easiest to explore.
Currently, human missions to Mars are still in the works but a number of robotic explorers are already on the red planet. Recently, the Perseverance Rover successfully landed on Mars and has beamed back high-resolution colored photos from our neighbor.
Touching down on Martian soil from a hovering landing craft using a Sky Crane, Perseverance has expanded humankind’s horizons. As expected, part of its mission will be to take photos of the Martian landscape and do science tests just like its predecessor, Curiosity.
But Perseverance is expected to do more with its upgraded cameras that also include microphones so we can finally hear the sounds on Mars. It also carries several scientific instruments on board, designed to do tests and also take samples from the Martian soil.
This upgraded rover will also actively look for signs of life on the red planet and is capable of mapping its own path, allowing it to move further and explore more areas on Mars.
“A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith,” NASA JPL explained.
Such an important robotic explorer needs to safely land on Mars to successfully do its numerous missions. That’s why the team behind its successful landing is also being praised. One of them is Pinoy-American NASA Engineer Gregorio Villar III.
Villar has worked for the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for nearly 12 years. This young Pinoy has done a lot of research and simulation tests to help design the Perseverance Rover and assist in its successful landing.
He even spent more than 7 years designing and testing a system to land a car-sized rover, Perseverance, on Mars. Although Perseverance is similar in design to Curiosity, it is much heavier. Design modifications were done on the updated rover to avoid the problems encountered by Curiosity.
As operations systems engineer in the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the Entry Descent Landing (EDL) Systems Engineer of Mars 2020 Mission, Villar has made the Pinoy community proud.
Many were also happy to learn that this engineer completed his high school education at Saint Louis University – Laboratory High School in Baguio. He went on to finish his bachelor’s degree in Physics at California State Polytechnic University and later his doctoral degree in Astronautical Engineering at the University of Southern California.
His chance to work with NASA began with a NASA scholarship in his junior years in college. This paved the way to his full-time job at JPL in 2012.