Dr. Anita Sengupta is a rocket scientist and aerospace engineer who for the past 20 years has been developing spacecraft technologies that have enabled the exploration of Mars, Asteroids, and deep space. She started her career working on the launch vehicles and communications satellites. Her doctoral research focused the developing the ion engines that powered the Dawn spacecraft to reach Vesta and Ceres in the main asteroid belt. She was then responsible for the supersonic parachute system that was integral to the landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars. She most recently led the development of the Cold Atom Laboratory, a laser-cooling quantum physics facility to be launched in 2018 to the International Space Station to create the coldest spot in the known universe. She is now leading the next generation of technologies for missions to explore the solar system and bringing space age technology down to Earth. With her wealth of knowledge as a Research Professor at the University of Southern California, Senior Vice President at Virgin Hyperloop, and on the advisory boards of numerous aerospace startups, Dr. Sengupta shares her expertise as unique perspectives as a world-renowned science communicator.
Dr. Sengupta received her MS and PhD in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Southern California. In her spare time she is an avid pilot, motorcyclist, scuba diver, mountain bike, public speaker, and STEM advocate.
Mars is the next destination for humans to explore and colonize in our journey through the solar system and beyond. For the past thirty years, the space programs of many nations have been sending robotic landed platforms of increasing complexity, revealing the Red Planet’s ancient past. One of the most challenging aspects of sending humans to Mars is the safe landing on the surface, from an initial entry speed of 30,000 miles per hour to a soft touchdown. During the descent to the surface, humans must be protected from extreme temperatures and G-forces by complex engineered systems. On the surface future explorers must be able to survive surface radiation and low pressures, with only the limited resources they can bring with them. This talk will discuss the motivation for Mars exploration and how engineering challenges are tackled with cutting-edge technologies, in situ resource utilization, and out-of-the-box thinking. Engineering the Red Planet is the key to our future and understanding our past.