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Dr Akshata Krishnamurthy: The First Indian Citizen to Operate a Rover on Mars

By Girish Linganna

Dr. Akshata Krishnamurthy is a systems engineer and scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). She is currently working on multiple space missions, including the Perseverance rover on Mars. Her incredible achievement as the first Indian citizen to operate a rover on Mars showcases her dedication and expertise in space exploration.

Dr. Krishnamurthy’s journey to NASA was not easy. When she came to the United States 13 years ago, she faced many challenges and rejections as a foreign national on a visa. Despite the discouragement and advice to have a backup plan, she remained determined to work at NASA. She pursued a PhD in Space Systems Engineering at MIT, where she focused on improving instruments for space telescope missions.

The High Bay 1 clean room within the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at JPL is seen in this image taken on November 12, 2019. The Mars 2020 rover is visible just above center. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

During her PhD studies, Dr. Krishnamurthy’s work on data processing software contributed to the discovery of the super-Earth 55 Cancri e. This made the ASTERIA satellite the smallest ever to detect an exoplanet. Her role in instrument characterization and data analysis earned her recognition in major science journals.

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After completing her PhD, Dr. Krishnamurthy faced further challenges in securing a full-time position at NASA. She persevered and eventually got hired. Currently, she is involved in exciting missions like the Perseverance rover, which is collecting samples from Mars. Her journey is a testament to the fact that no dream is too big or crazy. She advises others to believe in themselves and work hard to achieve their goals.

At JPL, Dr. Krishnamurthy leads project verification and validation evidence management for the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission. She also serves as the phase lead for science mission scenario testing and resource management for NISAR. Additionally, she is involved in a proposal to develop a framework for model-based verification of science instrumentation. She is also a Co-Investigator for a program that aims to design satellites to search for Earth-like planets orbiting nearby stars.

Throughout her career, Dr. Krishnamurthy has received numerous awards and accolades for her contributions to the field of space science and engineering. Her achievements include the NASA Honor Group Achievement Award, the Emerging Space Leader Award, and the Luigi G. Napolitano Award from the International Astronautical Federation. She has also been recognized by MIT with the Graduate Women of Excellence Award and the Dr. Robbin Chapman Excellence Through Adversity Award.

Dr. Krishnamurthy serves as an inspiration, especially for women and girls aspiring to work in the field of space science and engineering. She believes that women like her can be role models for young female leaders and encourages them to be proud of their heritage and culture. Her remarkable journey showcases that with determination and hard work, anyone can achieve their dreams in the field of space exploration.

Dr. Akshata Krishnamurthy’s story demonstrates that space exploration is for everyone, regardless of nationality, gender, or background. She continues to make significant contributions to the field, furthering our understanding of the universe and pushing the boundaries of space exploration.

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(The author of this article is a Defence, Aerospace & Political Analyst based in Bengaluru. He is also Director of ADD Engineering Components, India, Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany. You can reach out to him at:



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