LOADING...
Text Size
Paolo Bellutta - Mars Exploration Rover Planner
November 9, 2009

[image-12]

Name: Paolo Bellutta
Job Title: Mars Exploration Rover Planner
Education: Equivalent to Bachelor of Science
NASA Center: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Hometown: Trento, Italy
Hobby: Archery, photography
 

Tell us about the project that you are working on now.

What attracted you to a career in robotics?

What do you consider to be the highlight of your career?

What prepared you for your job?

What advice would you give to students interested in a career in robotics?


Tell us about the project that you are working on now.

The Mars Exploration Rover project is an ongoing robotic mission of exploration of the surface of the planet Mars. The mission began in the summer 2003 with the launch of two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, which landed on two opposite sides of Mars in January 2004. (Spirit launched June 10, 2003, and Opportunity launched July 7, 2003.) Since then, both rovers have returned hundreds of thousands of pictures and scientific data about minerals, rocks and soil composition. The goal of the mission was to find evidence of the past presence of liquid water. (The project has) found proof that Mars was once a place where water, in liquid form, was abundant.

> Top of page

What attracted you to a career in robotics?

Science fiction. All those robots that were in trouble in distant worlds in Isaac Asimov books! Alas, now I don't like science fiction that much anymore: I actually am driving and fixing rovers on a distant planet for a living!

> Top of page

What do you consider to be the highlight of your career?

I have been the engineering team lead for Opportunity during the year-long exploration of the Victoria Crater, an 800-meter-diameter, 60-meter-deep (2,625-feet-diameter, 197-feet-deep) crater in Meridiani Planum. It definitely was not easy to ensure that the rover would stay safe while reaching and exploring all of the science targets and while perched on treacherous terrain. We had several problems: a nearly mission-ending dust storm, and one of the joints in the robotic arm stopped working and nearly got the rover stuck in sand!

> Top of page

What prepared you for your job?

I worked on several different projects, in different fields (ground rovers, robotic microscopes for medical applications) allowing me to tackle and solve a variety of problems. I have always been curious on how things worked, why things were made in a certain way, how come the universe had stars, planets, animals, people, plants, and how they worked together.

> Top of page

What advice would you give to students interested in a career in robotics?

The best advice I have is: Never stop learning. While the technology is constantly changing, the experience you gather is invaluable in finding solutions to unusual problems, solutions that nobody else has found. The deeper your understanding of the problem, the easier it will be to find a solution, and it makes your job fun!



 
 
Image Token: 
[image-47]
Paolo Bellutta - Mars Exploration Rover Planner
Image Token: 
[image-12]
Image Token: 
[image-75]
Page Last Updated: February 27th, 2014
Page Editor: NASA Administrator