Akshata Krishnamurthy becomes first Indian to operate Mars rover

Dr Akshata Krishnamurthy is the first Indian citizen to operate the Mars Perseverance rover and currently works for NASA as the mission science phase lead for the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar.

Akshata Krishnamurthy becomes first Indian to operate Mars rover

NASA operatives are currently seeking signs of ancient life and collecting rock samples on Mars via the Perseverance Rover. And one of the leading team members is Dr Akshata Krishnamurthy — the first Indian citizen to operate the rover. The scientist had travelled to the US 13 years ago for higher studies and faced numerous challenges as she carved out a space for herself.

“I came to the United States a little over 13 years ago with almost nothing but a dream to work at NASA and lead breakthrough science and robotic operations on Earth and Mars. Everyone I met told me that this was impossible as a foreign national on a visa, and that I should either have a plan B or change my field completely," she recalled in a recent Instagram post.

The ‘rocket scientist’ obtained her Masters from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign before pursuing a Doctorate at MIT. She worked with MIT for some time and recalls "knocking on 100s of doors to get hired full-time at NASA".

According to her LinkedIn profile, Dr Krishnamurthy is a Principal Investigator and Mission Science Phase Lead at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She is the mission science phase lead for the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar and served as a robotics systems engineer on the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover Surface Operations Sampling and Caching team.

“Today, I work on multiple cool space missions including the Perseverance rover collecting samples to bring back to Earth. No dream is ever too big or crazy. Believe in yourself, keep those blinkers on and keep working! I promise, you’ll get there if you work hard," she added.

A profile shared on the SSPI Society of Satellite Professionals International website indicates that Dr Krishnamurthy has won numerous awards and fellowships during her career.

This includes the NASA Honor Group Achievement Award for ingenious use of a CubeSat to achieve key scientific investigations, the Emerging Space Leader Award and the Luigi G Napolitano Award from the International Astronautical Federation in 2017.