Swati Mohan faced more difficulty being a woman than as an Indian

Swati Mohan
Swati Mohan; photo credit: NASA

Indian American NASA aerospace engineer misses Indian street food especially roasted corn

Indian American aerospace engineer Swati Mohan who shot into fame for guiding NASA’s Perseverance Rover on Mars says in her own career journey she faced more difficulty being a woman than as an Indian.

Mohan, who was the Guidance and Controls Operations Lead for NASA Mars 2020 mission, made the revelation at the launch of the #DiasporaDiplomacy series on July 28 by the US Consulate General in Chennai.

The virtual series inaugurated by US Consul General in Chennai Judith Ravin will feature prominent Indian Americans who will talk about their personal and professional journey with students and other participants.

Read: Swati Mohan steers NASA’s Mars rover to Red Planet (February 19, 2021)

“In my career journey I faced more difficulty in being a woman in a male dominated field than being an Indian,” said Bengaluru born Mohan, who emigrated to the US when she was one year old, in response to a question.

However, Mohan who became interested in space after watching Star Trek at age nine, said she considered herself blessed at “a diverse organization like JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) which has a lot of diaspora from many different cultures.”

She almost missed her dream job, but for the choice between physics and biology she had to make at 16 as a high school student.

Mohan, 38, who initially wanted to be a pediatrician, said her decision to study physics instead of biology in high school later helped her to pursue her passion at NASA.

“There are many Indian Americans and Indians working on Mars 2020 and JPL as a whole,” she said.

Indian Space Research organization (ISRO) and are collaborating on NISAR (NASA ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar) satellite, Mohan said in response to a question.

The ISRO instrument team is at JPL integrating their portion of the instrument with the JPL portion.

Read: Faced more difficulty as a woman than as Indian, says Indian-American scientist Dr Swati Mohan (July 28, 2021)

“The JPL team will come to India next year to integrate and launch the spacecraft from India,” she said and hoped that NASA and ISRO partnership would continue to grow in future.

NISAR is expected to be launched into a near-polar orbit to observe Earth’s land and ice-covered surfaces every 12 days over the course of its three-year mission.

But is Mohan missing India or anything in particular about the land of her birth? “I especially miss the street food in India. It’s so good especially the corn roasted by the vendors,” she replied.

Every time she visits India, she makes sure to visit restaurants there because the food is so much better. However, she hastens to add “of course, we have good Indian restaurants here (in USA).”

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