Former NASA engineer watches Mars 2020 rover land during mission to church

For almost a year, Michelle Wright Amos worked on the Mars 2020 rover as a systems engineer.

But before the Perseverance rover launched on July 30, 2020, Amos and her husband, John, were given a special mission from the church to oversee young men and women serving as full-time missionaries in Louisiana.

If the Amoses missed the launch, they did not miss the landing Thursday afternoon.

Sister Michelle Amos and her husband, President John D. Amos, shared the Perseverance rover landing via Zoom technology with more than 200 missionaries serving in the Louisiana Baton Rouge Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Shortly after landing, Sister Amos was still flying high because of the experience.

“I’m super excited. I’m still up there,” she said in a phone interview with Deseret News. “I’m still excited, happy, just in awe and all of the above. The last two hours were great.

Prior to overseeing missionary work in Louisiana, Michelle Amos graduated from the University of the South and obtained a Masters of Engineering Management from the University of Central Florida before pursuing a 30-year career at NASA and the John F. Kennedy Space Center, where she was part of the engineering team assigned to the Mars 2020 rover.

John Amos, also a graduate of the South, was commissioned in the Navy and the Naval Reserve where he spent 21 years as a nuclear engineer. Husband and wife are both converted to the faith of Latter-day Saints, according to an article on Avocat.com.

Even if they accepted the call to serve, Sister Amos knew she would miss the rover launch and work at NASA, but it was a sacrifice she was prepared to make.

“I knew the Lord needed me to do something else,” she said. “I really miss working for NASA and the excitement of (Thursday), but I haven’t looked back.”

Landing at approximately 3:55 p.m. EST, the Perseverance rover becomes NASA’s fifth rover to land on Mars. He will now begin a two-year mission scouring the surface of Mars looking for signs of microbial life.

Sister Amos admitted to being nervous watching the rover’s final approach, dubbed “seven minutes of terror. “She recalled the numerous tests carried out two years earlier to ensure a successful landing.

“We have tested this system over and over again. We knew he would land correctly. But it’s a simulation, ”she said. “It’s a whole different story when you’re in the Martian atmosphere. All the wind, temperature and gravity projections that have helped you be successful using flight software on Earth – it has to work in a Martian atmosphere. This is the biting part of it.

When the landing was confirmed, everyone in the Zoom mission meeting screamed with joy.

“It was great to see my friends and so many years of hard work and toil come to fruition,” Sister Amos said.

A screenshot shows missionaries from the Louisiana Baton Rouge mission after watching the Mars 2020 rover land. Sister Michelle Amos is a former NASA engineer who worked on the Mars 2020 rover before embarking on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Prior to Thursday’s landing, Sister Amos informed the Jet Propulsion Laboratory communications director of their planned missionary surveillance team. JPL sent out enough March 2020 rover stickers for each missionary.

After watching the landing, the Amose allowed the missionaries to share their feelings and the Zoom meeting took on a spiritual turn.

“They linked spiritual knowledge with secular knowledge and faith with science,” Sister Amos said. “We have inspired engineers and people who want to work for NASA. … I think we’ve come a long way with our missionaries and helped them want to be inspired. … They will record it in their journals.

Jace Owens of Show Low, Ariz., Was one of those who came out inspired. He recalled that the launch of the March 2020 rover took place the same day he entered the Missionary Training Center at the start of his mission.

The younger eldest greatly appreciated the opportunity to witness the landing and said he hopes to someday work for NASA.

“This is probably one of the best things that happened to me during the mission,” he said during the Zoom meeting.

The Amoses also shared scriptural ideas about creation and the stars and connected them to Jesus Christ. Watching the landing strengthened their faith, she said.

“I am always amazed at what we just watched,” Sister Amos said. “I didn’t expect it to have that impact, but God knew it. I feel blessed to be an instrument in his hands and to serve the Lord.

Charles K. Eckert