How did you get that job: designing a parachute for NASA’s Mars rover

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You might not be familiar with Anita Sengupta, but you’re definitely familiar with her work: she helped design the 70-foot parachute for NASA’s Mars Rover, Curiosity. Without the chute, the rover never would have landed gently on the planet’s surface. Naturally, she’s got an appetite for tough problems.

After getting a bachelor’s in aerospace engineering from Boston University, she went on to receive a master’s and PhD from the University of Southern California, where she is now also a research associate professor. Her PhD thesis was on the ion thrusters that powered NASA’s Dawn mission, a probe launched in 2007, which orbited the asteroid Vesta before moving on to map Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and…

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