SWMO woman helps send next rover to Mars

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SOUTHWEST MISSOURI — Coming from a small town doesn’t mean you can’t dream big — woman from the small town of Wheaton, Missouri is now working at NASA.

Before working at NASA, Erisa Stilley graduated from the University of Miami in Florida in mechanical engineering and received her masters at Cambridge University in Massachusetts for aerospace engineering.

Erisa Stilley, said, “When you have a opportunity to try something new or to test your dream out so to speak to take those opportunities there’s often people if you’re excited about what you’re doing, if you’re working hard at it and are going to help you along the way and so I’d say look for those opportunities and those people that are going to encourage you.”

Stilley is currently working on the landing for the Perseverance Mars rover mission at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“This rover is actually built to look for signs of past life and we’re going to take core samples with our drill, be able to store them and save them on locations on the surface for a potential future mission to come and retrieve those samples and bring them back to earth so we have the benefit of large laboratories and testing capabilities that are very difficult to send to another planet.”

Stilley and her team have to brainstorm and work together on what rovers would be best for Mars.

“The first 2 things that comes to mind to ask what you need to have or know to make a rover for Mars is the first what your objective is, what’s the mission you’re trying to accomplish and the second is about the environment if you are building something even for the desert here or the ocean you have to understand something about the environment to build a robot that will operate and do the things you want to do.”

The rover has to be built for Mars temperature and atmosphere.

“We build a test vehicle that would weigh on Mars since Mars has less gravity things weigh way less than they do on Earth so you can build a rover that mimics that weight so to speak and we’ll take that rover out to the desert and run it over sand dunes to try to understand it’s capability in slip or performance with respect to that environment.”

Stilley is always prepared when something goes wrong.

“So when something goes wrong it depends on what exactly it was that went wrong and how catastrophic it was if most cases if needed, NASA will assemble a team of experts to go understand based on the data that we do have what happens so we can learn for future missions.”

NASA and JPL have been involved in missions like Venus, the moon, and Titan which is moon of Saturn.

“I think Mars just holds holds us captive because it is our closet neighbor. We have the potential to learn something about the history of our planet earth by studying it and again if we want to send humans there the more we know about it the the more prepared we can be to send them.”

Perseverance will touch down on Mars on Thursday, February 18, at 2:30 p.m. central time. The rover will go through the thin Martian atmosphere at a speed of over 12,000 miles per hour onto the Jezero Crater.

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