Perseverance, Curiosity, and Women

WRITTEN BY Carriza Arambulo
EDITED BY Sophie Maitland-Smith
GRAPHICS BY Juli Brizuela

Touchdown confirmed!

On the 18th of February, 2021, NASA’s Perseverance Rover landed on the surface of Mars––an unforgettable historical feat. More specifically, Perseverance landed on the Jezero Crater to seek signs of habitable conditions and past microbial life using a drill that collects samples of rocks and soil for storage in a “cache” on the surface of Mars.

This milestone was made possible by the phenomenal Mars 2020 Mission Team that shines with ingenuity and diversity. In celebration of Women’s Month, let’s take a look at the remarkable women who helped secure the Perseverance rover’s landing on Mars!


Meet seven phenomenal women from the Mars 2020 Mission Team who, by reaching for the stars, prove that the sky is no longer the limit for women in STEM.

  • Heather Ann Bottom is a Systems Engineer for Perseverance who ensures that the parts of the rover work efficiently as a whole.
  • Michelle Tomey Colizzi leads the Aeroshell’s vehicle, protecting the rover from extreme environments.
  • Swati Mohan is the head of NASA’s Operations for the Mars 2020 Guidance, Navigation, and Controls (GN&C).
  • Kathyrn Stack Morgan is a deputy research scientist studying the sedimentary rock records of Mars.
  • Moogega Stricker is the Planetary Protection Lead for Perseverance in NASA JPL, ensuring that the rover is clean prior to landing on Mars.
  • Diana Trujilo is an aerospace engineer and Mars 2020 Mission Lead working on Phase Robotic Arms Science.
  • Vandani Varma is a space roboticist who developed and drove the Curiosity and Perseverance rovers.

Heather Ann Bottom

Heather is the systems engineer for Perseverance. Her primary responsibility is to ensure that all of the rover’s parts work together efficiently for a smooth operation. During the initial tests for the Mars 2020 Mission, she was a project manager in charge of overseeing the bigger picture, requiring creative strategies and solutions to address any issues found within the system. In addition, she led the first system test run of the Perseverance rover.

Michelle Tomey Colizzi

Michelle is a mechanical engineer who is leading the Mission’s Aeroshell vehicle that protects the rover from extreme environments as it launches into outer space.

Swati Mohan

The successful landing of Perseverance was announced by Swati Mohan, an Indian-American scientist and engineer. She was one of the two voices heard on the stream that declared, “Perseverance safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking the signs of past life.” 

Mohan is the head of NASA’s Operations for the Mars 2020 Guidance, Navigation, and Controls (GN&C). She has also worked on previous missions including Cassini, the fourth space probe to explore Saturn as well as the first to enter the planet’s orbit, and GRAIL, a lunar science mission that utilizes high-quality, gravitational field mapping to examine the moon’s interior.

Kathryn Stack Morgan

Kathyrn is a deputy research scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Her research focuses on sediments, rocks, and mapping planetary surfaces. In line with her interests and skills, she studies the sedimentary rock records of Mars using data provided by the rover to understand the evolution of microbial life and ancient surface processes.

Moogega Stricker

Moogega is the Planetary Protection Lead for Perseverance in the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Her role is of great importance as she ensures that the rover is squeaky-clean prior to landing on Mars. Scientists need to be certain that they are detecting signs of past microbial life on Mars and not microorganisms from Earth. Stricker specializes in thermal fluid sciences, equipping her with the necessary skills to develop plasma sterilization methodologies for use in future missions.

Bekah Sosland Siegfriedt

Bekah worked as the Mission Operations Downlink Systems Engineer on the Mars 2020 Mission. In this role, she designed the system that translates downlinked data collected by the rover into information that can be quickly analyzed and observed. Still on the Mars 2020 Mission Team, Siegfriedt has assumed the position of Tactical Downlink Lead.

Diana Trujilo

Diana is a Colombian aerospace engineer working on Phase Robotic Arms Science as the Mission Lead for Mars 2020. She has also worked as the Surface Sampling System Activity Lead, Dust Removal Tool Lead, and as a Systems Engineer in previous human and robotic missions. Trujilo was part of the telecommunication systems team that helped launch the Curiosity rover. During the Curiosity mission, she ensured that the collected samples were dust-free. Now, amidst today’s online landscape, she hosted the very first Spanish transmission of the planetary landing for Perseverance.

Vandana “Vandi” Varma

Vandana is a space roboticist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who was tasked to develop and drive the Curiosity and Perseverance rovers using the PLEXIL programming technology.

These are, without a doubt, wonderful contributions to a major historical event. We extend our gratitude to the fantastic women who continue to work hard for such projects. With another milestone in the books, we can proudly say, “Touchdown confirmed!” not only for these awe-inspiring women in STEM but also for future NASA hopefuls; the next generation of brave young women who will follow in their footsteps.


Ahmed-Sheikh, T. (2021, February 24). Nasa’s Mars mission shows women going boldly go where none have gone before. Retrieved from

Bora, S. (2021, February 19). Meet These 7 Phenomenal Women Behind NASA’s Perseverance Rover. Retrieved from

Kaur, H. (2021, February 19). The face of the Perseverance landing was an Indian American woman. Retrieved from

NASA. (n.d.). Mars Perseverance Mission Overview. Retrieved from


NASA. (n.d.). Bekah Sosland Siegfriedt. Retrieved from

NASA. (n.d.). Heather Bottom. Retrieved from

NASA. (n.d.). Katie Stack Morgan. Retrieved from

NASA. (n.d). Moogega Cooper. Retrieved from

NASA. (n.d.). Swati Mohan. Retrieved from

NASA. (n.d.). Vandi Verma. Retrieved from

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