Mars Rovers with Keri Bean (#14)

We talk about Mars Rovers, Star Wars, and cake decorating.

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Keri Bean (tw: @PlanetaryKeri) is a systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. She is the deputy lead Rover Planner (aka Mars rover driver) on the Curiosity Mars rover and is a Helicopter Integration Engineer for the Mars 2020 mission. She got her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Texas A&M University in meteorology, with her focus on studying the weather on Mars. Her hobbies mostly center around Star Wars, as she is an active member of the R2-D2 Builder’s Club with her very own Astromech and cosplays with the Rebel Legion.

In our conversation, we talk about Mars Rovers, Star Wars, and cake decorating.

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Show Notes

[00:37] Keri’s pursuit of meteorology.
[01:50] Astronomy as a potential path.
[02:12] Possible career paths in space.
[02:44] Her introduction to Space Weather
[03:35] Keri’s first experiences with the rover missions.
[03:54] Spirit and Opportunity Rovers.
[04:51] Phoenix Mars Lander.
[05:54] Applying her meteorology studies to her rover mission experiences.
[06:33] Curiosity Rover.
[06:50] Keri’s path to JPL.
[08:58] Dawn Mission.
[09:55] Filling the gaps in knowledge between her meteorology background and her work.
[10:36] Test beds.
[11:44] Building her own R2-D2.
[14:28] On becoming a Rover Planner.
[16:03] The process for certifying to be a Rover Planner.
[18:42] Certifying for individual Rovers.
[19:10] Her role as a Helicopter Integration Engineer on the Perseverance Rover drone, Ingenuity.
[20:11] Earth-side duplicate and testing of the drone.
[21:39] A day in the life of Keri.
[22:56] Working remotely.
[26:22] Coming up next for Curiosity and Perseverance.
[26:34] Curiosity: Wet Chemistry Experiment.
[27:28] Perseverance: Landing Day.
[27:59] Preparations for Landing Day.
[29:03] Flight software transitions.
[30:54] Handling the unexpected.
[32:14] Bonus Question 1: What hobby or interest do you have that is most unrelated to your field of work?
[34:07] Keri’s cosplay.
[36:46] Porgs and PORGs.
[40:27] Bonus Question 2: Which childhood book holds the strongest memories for you?
[42:04] Bonus Question 3: What advice you would give someone who wants to do what you do? Or what advice should they ignore?
[43:03] Exploring other topics if they are of interest.
[43:21] Gaining astronomy experience with the HUBBLE
[45:38] Reaching out to Keri.

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