Washington: US President Joe Biden on Thursday congratulated the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) team responsible for the success of the Perseverance rover that landed on Mars earlier this month. He lauded the team at Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)/California Institute of Technology, including Dr Swati Mohan, the Indian-American aerospace engineer, who was one of the many people who spearheaded the development and the landing system for the rover.
The India-Americans are "taking over the country", Biden said while speaking to Dr Swati Mohan in a video conference call.
Dr Mohan thanked Biden for interacting with them, but the President said he was honored to interact with the team.
"This is an incredible honor. Indian -- of descent -- Americans are taking over the country. You (Swati Mohan), my Vice President (Kamala Harris), my speechwriter (Vinay Reddy) I tell you what. But thank you. You guys are incredible," Biden told Dr Mohan.
What you did, you restored a dose of confidence in the American people. They were beginning to wonder about us. They were beginning to wonder are we still the country we always believed we were. You guys did it
Dr Mohan, who skillfully landed the spacecraft, works at the Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). She is one of the many Indian women scientists, engineers and missile developers, who are leaving a trail for future generations.
Over the course of about 10 minutes, Biden poured on the kudos and cast the landing as an important bright spot that has come at a rough time for the nation.
"What you did, you restored a dose of confidence in the American people. They were beginning to wonder about us. They were beginning to wonder are we still the country we always believed we were. You guys did it."
"We can land a rover on Mars, we can beat a pandemic and with science, hope and vision, there's not a damn thing we can't do as a country," he added.
During the interaction, the President also spoke with Michael Watkins, Jet Propulsion Laboratory director and lauded the NASA team for doing an "incredible job."
"It's so much bigger than landing Perseverance on Mars," Biden told members of the NASA team. "It's about the American spirit. And you brought it back."
NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover got its first high-definition look around its new home in Jezero Crater on February 21, after rotating its mast, or "head," 360 degrees, allowing the rover's Mastcam-Z instrument to capture its first panorama after touching down on the Red Planet on February 18.
According to a release by NASA, it was the rover's second panorama ever, as the rover's Navigation Cameras, or Navcams, also located on the mast, captured a 360-degree view on February 20.
Indian Americans in key position
In less than 50 days of his presidency, Biden has appointed at least 55 Indian-Americans to key leadership positions in his administration ranging from his speech writer to the NASA, to almost every wing of the government.
Biden, who was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on January 20, has created history by appointing at least 55 Indian-Americans to key positions in his administration.
Nearly half of them are women and a sizable number of them are working in the White House.
Some of the Indian-American women appointed by Biden in key positions include:
Uzra Zeya: Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, State Department
Mala Adiga: Policy Director to Dr Jill Biden
Aisha Shah: Partnership Manager, White House Office of Digital Strategy
Sameera Fazili: Deputy Director, US National Economic Council (NEC)
Sumona Guha: Senior Director for South Asia at the National Security Council, White House
Sabrina Singh: Deputy Press Secretary, Vice President White House.
Shanthi Kalathil: Coordinator for Democracy and Human Rights, National Security Council, White House
Garima Verma: Digital Director of the Office of the First Lady
Sonia Aggarwal: Senior Advisor for Climate Policy and Innovation; Office of Domestic Climate Policy, White House
Neha Gupta: Associate Counsel, Office of White House Counsel
Reema Shah: Deputy Associate Counsel, Office of White House Counsel.
Tanya Das: been appointed as Chief of Staff, Office of Science, Department of Energy
Shuchi Talati: Chief of Staff, Office of Fossil Energy, Department of Energy
Mini Timmaraju: Senior adviser to the director, Office of Personnel Management
Sohini Chatterjee: Senior Policy Advisor US Mission to the United Nations
Aditi Gorur: Policy Advisor, US Mission to the United Nations
Bhavya Lal: Acting Chief of Staff, NASA.
Dimple Chaudhary: Deputy General Counsel for Nationwide Resource Protection Programs, Environmental Protection Agency
Sharmistha Das: Deputy General Counsel, Department of Homeland Security
Ruchi Jain: Deputy Solicitor for General Law, Department of Interior
Meera Joshi: Acting Administrator, Federal Motor Carrier Administration, Department of Transportation
Aruna Kalyanam: Deputy Assistant Secretary for Tax and Budget, Department of the Treasury
[With inputs from ANI and PTI]