Atlas V rocket launched Thursday NASA’ s Perseverance rover to Mars from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The six-wheeled robot, which deploys a mini helicopter, seeks to look for traces of life on the red planet.
Dr. Mohamed Abid, a Tunisian national, is the Mars 2020 Deputy Chief Mechanical Engineer and Manager of the Mechatronics group at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
Born in Sfax, Mohamed Abid pursued university studies in France for five years and had a Master’s Degree. He then got a scholarship to undertake a Ph.D. in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Southern California.
After obtaining his Ph.D, Abid served as a lecturer for about ten years at this prestigious university. This helped him gain enough experience to join the US space agency and specifically the JPL.
Established in 1936, this laboratory is a NASA leading centre for the robotic exploration of the solar system run by California Institute of Technology. It launches solar system exploration missions, particularly to Mars (Mars Exploration Rover mission, Mars Science Laboratory, Insight, Mars 2020) and outer planets.
The laboratory is well known for having sent for the first time astronauts to the moon in the 1960’s /1970’s.
Over the past 16 years, Abid quickly advanced to the position of Chief Engineer of the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission tasked with monitoring global soil moisture mapping with unprecedented resolution, sensitivity and area coverage.
In 2014, he was appointed Manager of the Mechatronics group at JPL before being named by late 2016 Mars 2020 Deputy Chief Mechanical Engineer.
In an interview with Tunisian aerospace engineer in Belgium Ahmed El Fadhel, Abid said he had attended the launch of the rocket from his vehicle which was nearly 3km away from the launch pad.
Atlas V rocket starts a seven-month journey to Mars. The goal of Mars 2020 mission is to carry Perseverance rover and the tiny helicopter Ingenuity to the Jezero Crater, a 49km wide impact crater on Mars.
Once Perseverance deploys Ingenuity onto the surface of Mars, Abid and his team will take control of the devices designed to take several samples of the Martian soil. The ultimate goal is to seek traces of life on the red planet.
The rover and the helicopter will also help study the planet’s geology and climate to provide more data to researchers and engineers and pave the way for human missions to the planet.