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Rocket Scientist to Discuss Mars Mission at Santa Monica Library


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By Jorge Casuso

July 14, 2017 -- Dr. Anita Sengupta, the aerospace engineer who designed the supersonic parachute system that allowed NASA's Curiosity Rover to safely land on Mars, will give a talk at the Santa Monica Library this month.

Sengupta, who is "leading the next generation of technologies for missions to explore the origins of the cosmos and search for habitable worlds outside of our solar system," will give an audio visual presentation titled "The Future of Mars Exploration," event organizers said.

Dr. Anita Sengupta
Dr. Anita Sengupta (Photo courtesy of he USC Viterbi School of Engineering)

During the presentation on Wednesday, July 26, at 7 p.m. in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Auditorium, Sengupta will discuss her work on the mission that landed the Curiosity Rover on Mars, as well as "the motivation for Mars exploration and its engineering challenges," organizers said.

After a more than eight-month, 350-million-mile journey the car-size Curiosity rover landed on Mars in August 2012 to investigate the red planet's climate and geology and assess whether the Gale Crater could have supported microbial life.

The mission also is studying the role of water and whether the planet is habitable in preparation for future human exploration, according to NASA officials.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Sengupta said her biggest challenge in helping to land the Curiosity on Mars was developing the 70-foot supersonic parachute.

"The hardest part," she said, "is that you can never actually test your system end-to-end here on Earth before you get to Mars. On Earth the gravity is three times what it is on Mars. The atmosphere and composition is totally different.

"For me, it was the most exciting thing because it was sending something to a new world in a way we’ve never done before."

This month, Curiosity's car-size NASA rover began studying an iron-bearing ridge on a Martian mountain's slope, NASA officials said.

Sengupta is currently the project manager of the Cold Atom Laboratory at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech, which is trying to create the coldest measurable place in the universe in the hopes of learning more about gravity and the origins of earth.

In her spare time, Sengupta, who received her MS and PhD in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Southern California, likes to ride motorcycles and fly planes.

This event is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and on a first-arrival basis.

The Main Library is served by Big Blue Bus routes 1, 7, R7, R10 and 18 and provides bicycle parking racks.

For more information, visit or contact the Santa Monica Public Library at (310) 458-8600.


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