Filipino-American engineer in NASA helped in the safe and successful landing of Perseverance Rover in Mars

Published February 19, 2021, 1:16 PM

by Enzo Luna

It’s entirely a new horizon and exciting day for all mankind after Perseverance Rovers successfully landed on Mars with the help of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) team of engineers.

Perseverance touched down the Martian soil from a hovering landing craft using a Sky Crane. It entered the atmosphere at about Mach 28 (21,000 mph) before slowing down to Mach 10 (7,600 mph), while experiencing over 10x of Earth’s gravity. The rover is just the size of a car.

A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith.

Part of the team is a Filipino-American engineer Gregorio Villar III, the Entry Descent Landing (EDL) Systems Engineer of Mars 2020 Mission and operations systems engineer in the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), who spent years of building, and testing a system that will land Perseverance on the planet Mars.

Gregorio Villar III

“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,” Villar quoted in one of his past interviews.

Mars 2020 is a Mars rover mission by NASA’s Mars Exploration Program that includes the Perseverance rover and the Ingenuity helicopter drone. It was launched on 30 July 2020 at 11:50 UTC and touched down in Jezero crater on Mars on 18 February 2021 at 20:55 UTC.

Villar graduated from Saint Louis University – Laboratory High School in Baguio; took a bachelor’s degree in Physics at California State Polytechnic University; and a doctoral degree in Astronautical Engineering at the University of Southern California. In his junior years in college, Villar earned a NASA scholarship making his way to full-time work in Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 2012.

He has been working at NASA JPL for about 12 years. In his service, he has led a council of atmospheric scientists to study the Martian Atmosphere; lead a parachute test campaign in the world’s largest wind tunnel: and now he leads the EDL operations for Perseverance Rover.

Villar addressed an audience of high school students, college students, and professionals in a talk entitled “Moving the Joystick: What it really takes to operate a rover on Mars,” held in the National Institute of Physics- Intel Auditorium, University of the Philippines Diliman on 11 August 2016.