Copyright: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Photo by T. Wynne
Earlier this year, the world witnessed the first flight of a tiny, four-pound helicopter named Ingenuity on Mars. The Project Manager for the Mars helicopter is an amazing lady named MiMi Aung who works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. While MiMi was born in Illinois, her parents were originally from Myanmar and they moved back there when MiMi was just two-years-old. From the earliest age, MiMi was inspired by education as her mother was the first person in Myanmar to ever receive a doctorate degree in Mathematics. At sixteen, MiMi returned to Illinois to pursue her own education and went on to get a Master’s degree in Communications and Signal Processing from the University of Illinois in 1990. That same year, MiMi joined the team at JPL in Pasadena where she went to work on various NASA projects as an engineer. In 2015 MiMi was named the lead for the Mars helicopter project and for the last six years she has lead the team at JPL in preparation for this year’s successful Mars landing.
Immediately after Ingenuity’s first successful flight, we had an opportunity to ask MiMi the following: “What advice would you give for girls and young ladies in school around the world who are interested in pursuing a career in space related technologies?”
MiMi answered, “My advice: if you’re attracted to it, go for it! Don’t let anyone talk you out of it, including yourself. I like to say, find an intersection of what you like to do, what you’re good at and the cause that you want to make and improve on. Find the intersection of those three and when you find it, like it sounds like you are attracted to STEM, go for it! It takes tons of hard work, but it won’t feel like hard work because you’re going to enjoy it so much. Your passion is going to come out of it and you will be able to make whatever you want to make happen, so my biggest advice: don’t let yourself talk you out of it and definitely don’t let other people talk you out of it.”
Thank you, MiMi and congratulations on your success! We look forward to what comes next for you and your amazing team.