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XA gh Diana Trujillo, flight director of 'Perseverance': "There must be some life on Mars" - The Times Hub

Diana Trujillo, flight director of 'Perseverance': “There must be some life on Mars”

Diana Trujillo, flight director of 'Perseverance': "There must be some life on Mars"

The Colombian aerospace engineer Diana Trujillo yesterday narrated, for the first time in Spanish, the landing of a NASA spacecraft on the surface of Mars . Trujillo (Cali, 1981) was the leader of the Curiosity mission, was in charge of the team of engineers that developed the Perseverance robotic arm and was recently appointed as flight director for the Mars 2020 mission.

The scientist, who arrived two decades ago To the United States without knowing English and with $ 300 in her pocket, she has today become an example and inspiration for thousands of Latina women who dream of one day working at NASA. Trujillo insists that telling the arrival of Perseverance to Mars in Spanish can help many girls and boys in Latin America and Spain fall in love with science and space.

A few hours after finishing the live broadcast of the Juntos perseveramos program , which has had more than a million and a half views, Trujillo told EL PAÍS the details of the successful landing of the ship and the objectives of the mission. According to the researcher, Perseverance has all the necessary technology to find traces of microbial life from billions of years ago in the Jezero crater of the red planet.

Question. Yesterday was the first time that NASA broadcast in Spanish the arrival of a ship to another planet and you were in charge of narrating the process. How did you live that experience?

Answer. It was spectacular. For a long time I wanted NASA to broadcast a planetary landing in Spanish. He had been insisting for months. Everything went well. The goal was for this historic moment to reach not only English-speaking scientists and engineers, but also grandmothers, grandparents, mothers, fathers, and especially the children of Latin America and Spain.

P. Besides telling the Hispanic world the details of the landing, you played a very important role in the development of Perseverance , what was your specific role?

R. I was recently appointed one of the Perseverance flight directors. Before, I was in charge of leading the team that designed the robotic arm of the spacecraft and of building the two instruments that will help us to demonstrate if there was life on Mars in the past.

Q. How was the process?

R. We worked a lot, 24 hours a day for many months to finish assembling the Persy robot [ female]. We never stop, neither weekends, nor December, nor parties. We rotated among the team members so as not to waste a minute. When the ship was ready we took it to Cape Canaveral in Florida. It took off on July 30 of last year, almost six months ago. Perseverance traveled 480 million kilometers at 20,000 kilometers per hour. The challenge was to be able to lower that speed to zero to land without problems. We did it. It was very exciting.

Q. What is your landing balance? How were the details of the last minutes before Perseverance touched the Martian surface?

R. We survived the seven minutes of terror . So we tell the time that passes from the moment the spacecraft touches the atmosphere on Mars until it reaches the surface. In that interval, the robot had to change the angle of rotation to face the ground, decelerate through the activation of a supersonic parachute, brake with a heat shield, take photos to compare what it was seeing with the information it had saved. in your brain. When it was very close to the surface, it ignited the rockets to avoid hitting the ground and began to descend very slowly with the help of a kind of aerial crane.

P. Perseverance landed successfully in a crater called Jezero. What characteristics does this place have?

R. It is a special place because everything indicates that a river flowed there. It is a crater of approximately 45 kilometers in diameter. If you look at the photos, it looks like a fan, like a place where the water and sediment had spread.

Q. Is it confirmed that there was water there?

A. It is confirmed that there was something that changed the composition of the material that is around. That is why all scientists agree that this is the place where we can probably find traces of microbial life. If it was the mouth of a river, there must be some life there. If we find that, we will also do the research to find out if life probably started on Mars and on Earth at the same time .

Q. How is Perseverance different from Curiosity ?

R. Perseverance is NASA's most advanced robot. It has 23 cameras, two microphones, a helicopter called Ingenuity , a highly specialized sample collection system, and the first instrument to make oxygen on the surface of Mars. Curiosity had to answer if there was a possibility of finding life, Perseverance is trying to answer if indeed there was life in the past. We already know that there was the possibility, now we are looking for that proof to confirm it.

“'Perseverance' is NASA's most advanced robot. It has 23 cameras, two microphones, a helicopter called Ingenuidad , a highly specialized sample collection system and the first instrument to make oxygen on the surface of Mars. "

Q. What is Perseverance going to do in the next few days?

A. The mission will last one Mars year, which is two Earth years. What we are going to do the first two weeks are checks to see that nothing on the robot has been damaged. I still don't believe it; is that entering Mars at 20,000 kilometers per hour and nothing has been damaged is surprising.

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