POTSDAM, N.Y. (WWNY) - People around the world watched in awe as NASA’s Perseverance raced through space at more than 12,000 miles per hour before landing safely on Mars.
But one University professor was watching a bit more closely than others.
“There’s obviously a bit of nervousness wondering what is going to happen, but it’s just thrilling when something like this, when we can go put something on Mars really carefully,” said Professor Suresh Dhaniyala, a mechanical and aeronautical expert.
He chaired two jet propulsion laboratory and NASA committees to make sure nothing biological from Earth was brought Mars.
The program aims to find evidence of past life on the red planet.
“We were tasked to look at all of the calculation approaches, look at the experiments they were conducting to validate the calculation approach, and the logistical handling protocols they were setting in place, which were designed to ensure zero contamination of Mars surface when the robot lands,” said Dhaniyala.
Dhaliyana says it’s important to make sure nothing from Earth is mistaken for life on Mars.
“The last thing we want to do is take biological stuff from Earth, drop it off on Mars, and pick it back up and think we’ve found biology on Mars,” he said.
With Perseverance landed, Dhaniyala still has work to do. He’s on a few other committees to help with plans to bring samples back to Earth.
Dhaniyala says while his role may have been small in sending the rover to Mars, it was the experience of a lifetime.
“I was just lucky to be involved and understand the details of what’s going on. It’s a huge step for mankind,” he said.
And a smaller step closer to bringing a human to Mars.