How Filipino-American engineer helped in Perseverance rover's safe Mars landing

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 19) — After traveling seven months from Earth to Mars, another robotic visitor — the Perseverance — successfully landed on the red planet, and a Filipino-American engineer from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration played a key role.

"When you think of operating something, you think of the control room. Once again, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There's a lot of people and rooms involved," NASA Engineer Gregorio Villar III said way back in 2016 during the "Moving the Joystick: What it really takes to operate a rover on Mars" held in the University of the Philippines Diliman.

Villar is the Entry Descent Landing Systems Engineer of Mars 2020 Mission and operations systems engineer in the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Mars 2020 includes the Perseverance rover which launched from Earth on July 30 and landed smoothly on the red planet on February 18. The mission seeks to look for signs of potential life and collect samples of broken rock and soil.

He spent seven and a half years building and testing a system that would land a car-sized rover on Mars.

Working with NASA JPL for more than a decade now, Villar heads the verification and validation engineer for the entry, descent, and landing phase of the project.

During his stint at the NASA JPL, he also led a parachute test campaign in the world's largest wind tunnel, as well as a council of atmospheric scientists to study the Martian atmosphere.

Villar completed his secondary school at Saint Louis University - Laboratory High School in Baguio City.

He continued his education at the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, securing a bachelor's degree in Physics. Villar gained a doctoral degree in Astronautical Engineering at the University of Southern California.