Dep. Mechanical Chief Engineer, Cruise EDL MSE
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA, USA
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, Dr. 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, Dr. 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 his plenary Dr. Mohamed Abid will talk about the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover mission which is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the Red Planet. The mission addresses high-priority science goals for Mars exploration, including key questions about the potential for life on Mars. Perseverance takes the next step by not only seeking signs of habitable conditions on Mars in the ancient past, but also searching for signs of past microbial life itself. The rover introduces a drill that can collect core samples of the most promising rocks and soils and set them aside in a "cache" on the surface of Mars. A future mission could potentially return these samples to Earth. That would help scientists study the samples in laboratories with special room-sized equipment that would be too large to take to Mars. The mission also provides opportunities to gather knowledge and demonstrate technologies that address the challenges of future human expeditions to Mars. These include testing a method for producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, identifying other resources (such as subsurface water), improving landing techniques, and characterizing weather, dust, and other potential environmental conditions that could affect future astronauts living and working on Mars.
Perseverance was timed for a launch opportunity between July 30 and Aug. 15, 2020, when Earth and Mars were in good positions relative to each other for landing on Mars. That is, it took less power to travel to Mars at that time, compared to other times when Earth and Mars are in different positions in their orbits. To keep mission costs and risks as low as possible, the Mars 2020 design is based on NASA's successful Mars Science Laboratory mission architecture, including its Curiosity rover and proven landing system.
The Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover (Source: Nasa)