This illustration shows NASA’s Perseverance rover casting off its spacecraft’s cruise stage, minutes before entering the Martian atmosphere. Hundreds of critical events in the rover’s Entry, Descent, and Landing sequence must execute perfectly and exactly on time for the rover to touch down on Mars safely on Feb. 18, 2021. CAPTION AND IMAGE: NASA.

NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover lands on Mars on February 18, 2021.

The mission — dubbed Perseverance — is the most technologically-advanced rover the space agency has sent to the Red Planet, and it took a huge team to get it there.

During its time on Mars, Perseverance will collect rock and sediment samples and store them for later retrieval. It will search for signs of microbial life and study the Martian climate and geology, lighting the path for humans to one day visit.


The Mars 2020 Perseverance team represents a diverse team of scientists and engineers from a wide range of disciplines — encompassing everything from geology, to planetary science, to computer programming, to robotics.

The mission’s principal investigators are from the U.S., Spain, and Norway. Individuals and organizations from countries across the world have contributed to the project.

Here’s a closer look at some of the areas of expertise involved.

Systems engineers. Systems engineers like Anais Zarifian developed and test engineered models or copies of the rover’s hardware to make sure both the hardware and software behave as expected. Zarifian’s work focused on the Vehicle System Testbed, including tests for autonomous driving.

Shonte Tucker, also a systems engineer, worked with the Payload and Instrument team to ensure requisite instrument testing, analysis, inspections, and demonstrations were performed.

Planetary scientists. Bethany Elmann, a professor of planetary science at Caltech and Associate Director of the Keck Institute for Space Studies, works on white papers and advisory committees describing requirements and implementation approaches for sample return.

Aerospace engineers. Robin Beck contributed to the project by developing thermal protection materials.

Metronics engineers. Several metronics engineers contributed to the msision including Iona Brockie, spent six years perfecting one of the rover’s three drills, participating in every aspect of the design process.

Planetary geologists. Planetary geologists like Kirsten Siebach, an Assistant Professor in the Rice University Department of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences and a self-proclaimed Martian Geologist, will help interpret the Mars environment based on the samples Perseverance sends back to Earth.

Data scientists. Amruta Yelamanchili is one of the data scientists involved in the project. Yelamanchili works on the ground-based automation tool that determines when the rover does its daily activities.

Instrument systems engineers. Asad Aboobaker contributed to the project in several ways, starting as a thermal subsystem lead on the MOXIE payload. 

Software engineers. Erick Blandon Ramirez helps develop software for the power team and daily operation checks.

Planetary protection engineers. Moogega Cooper worked with colleagues to develop a plasma sterilization technology that was a contender to sterilize the container Perseverance sends back to Earth.

Hardware quality assurance engineers. Stephaney W. Smith assured the hardware of the sky crane was able to function, millions of miles from Earth.

Mechanical engineers. Luis Aguila, a first-generation Mexican-American, led harness fabrication and installation for several of the rover’s subsystems. Norman Aisen, a spacecraft mechanical engineer, designed and developed the actuator for the sample tube sealing to be used in the sample tube handling system.

Robotics engineers. Vandi Verma serves as the chief engineer for the robotics operations team, overseeing a number of projects including rover planner driving and operating the robotic arm.

This is just a sample of the diverse group of people and knowledge bases that made Perseverance possible.

Check out NASA to meet the diverse members of Mars mission team, and follow the rover along on Twitter for mission updates.