“You guys are incredible,” Biden tells Indian American Swati Mohan, who landed Mars rover on the Red Planet.
With so many Indian Americans from Vice President Kamala Harris to NASA engineer Swati Mohan in key jobs across the country, no wonder President Joe Biden thinks they are taking over America.
“It’s amazing. Indian — of descent — Americans are taking over the country: you; my Vice President; my speechwriter, Vinay (Reddy),” he quipped to NASA engineer Swati Mohan, who guided the Mars rover Perseverance to a soft landing on the Red Planet,
“And I tell you what. But thank you. You guys are incredible,” Biden said during a virtual meeting Thursday to congratulate Mohan and others on the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) team that landed the Perseverance on Mars on Feb. 18.
Biden started the conversation with “Hey Doc, how are you?” after JPL Director Michael Watkins introduced Mohan.
“I’m doing very well, Mr. President. Thank you for – ” responded Mohan, who proudly displays her Indian identity with a traditional bindi on her forehead, before Biden interrupted her mid sentence, “ I just want you to know —“
“ — for taking the time to speak with us,” she continued before Biden again cut her off with, “ Are you kidding me? What an honor this is. This is an incredible honor.”
“Did you want to say something? I’ll be quiet,” he promised as Watkins asked Mohan to “tell us how you felt on landing day and, actually, what path brought you to here at the lab.”
“So my path actually started way back when I was a child, watching my first episode of Star Trek,” she said.
“In addition to those fantastical scenes of space, what really captured my attention was this really close-knit team who was working together, manipulating this technological marvel with the sole purpose of exploring space and understanding new things and seeking new life.”
“You know, Perseverance is my first mission at JPL where I’ve gotten to work from the very beginning of formulation, all the way through operations, and it made me feel like I was part of that crew,” Mohan said.
“Being able to work with this incredibly diverse, talented team that has become like a family, spending years creating our own technological marvel has been a privilege,” she said.
“You know, those last days and weeks leading up to landing day, it was pretty smooth, but we were all still really nervous and, frankly, terrified until we got through those final seven minutes.”
“To be able to call ‘touchdown’ safely, to see those first images come back from Mars, to see the place where we have never been able to go to on Mars before and go there — reach there for the express purpose of seeking out new life just made it feel like I was living in a dream,” Mohan said.
“Now that that tremendous relief has passed for the team of being able to be there safely, all that’s left is the excitement and the thrill of all the scientific discoveries that are yet to come and what Perseverance can actually find — and hopefully find those signs of past life on Mars.”
“I tell you what, you said you feel like you’re ‘living a dream’ — you’ve created a dream for millions and millions of young kids, young Americans,” replied the President .
“You talk about STEM. You — it was — look, the thing that I found so exhilarating about this: You all did this — the whole team — the team I can see now and the entire team at JPL — what you did: You restored a dose of confidence in the American people,” Biden said.
Taking a dig at his predecessor Donald Trump, Biden said, “They were beginning to wonder about us. They were beginning to wonder: Are we still the country we always believed we were?”
“You guys did it. You guys gave a sense of ‘America is back.’ It‘s — it’s astounding what you did. You should not underestimate it. You should not underestimate it.”
“You know, you did it the most American way: You believed in science, you believed in hard work, and you believed there wasn’t a darn thing you couldn’t do if you put your minds together,” Biden said.
“One of the reasons why we’re such an incredible country is we’re such a diverse country,” he said. “We bring the best out of every single solitary culture in the world here in the United States of America, and we give people an opportunity to let their — let their dreams run forward.”
“And you just — I can’t tell you how much — you know, everyone was so down the last years about: Is America still the — the, you know, the fount of change?
“And are we still the country that has hopes and develops and pursues the most unlikely things to happen? And we are. And you all demonstrated it.”
“It’s so much bigger than landing Perseverance on Mars. It’s about the American spirit, and you brought it back. You brought back in a moment we so desperately need it,” Biden said.
“And America’s image in the world — and it matters. It matters because democracies have to demonstrate they can run as efficiently and more efficiently than autocracies.
“There’s a big battle going on. Your kids are going to be studying about when democracy once again reestablished it could do anything, as opposed to autocracies that can just command things,” Biden said.
“We can land a rover on Mars. We can beat a pandemic. And with science, hope, and vision, there’s not a damn thing we can’t do as a country. We have never, ever, ever failed to meet a goal,” he said.
“We’ve set our mind to it, and we’ve done it together. And that’s what you all showed. So it goes way beyond — way beyond the whole notion of what you just recently did,” Biden said.