Meet the engineer behind NASA's robotic arm for Mars
Standing at the porch of his house in Ghana, as a young boy, Ashitey
Trebi-Ollennu was fascinated by the planes that flew in and out of the
airport. But his dreams were not to be a pilot, his imagination was more
unique than that.crp robot
He envisioned a future where robots would fly the planes. "I was
fascinated by replacing human pilots with computers. I was very
interested in that as a young kid."
Many years after, the young dreamer has surpassed his imagination. He is
now a lead engineer on InSight - NASA's spacecraft which recently
landed on Mars. He is in charge of the mission's robotic arm mechanism.
What does the robotic arm do?
The goal of InSight is to understand how planets are formed. But to do
so, there is need to look deep beneath the surface. "You have to look at
the core of the planet," says Ollennu, Instrument Deployment Systems
Lead on InSight.
InSight's robotic arm will place scientific instruments off the InSight
lander onto the surface. "Our responsibility is to pick up the
instruments that the scientists are going to use to examine the planets
hundreds of millions of miles away," Ollennu said.
The arm, more than 5 feet 9 inches (1.8 meters) long, has a camera
attached that will provide 3D color views of the landing site. It is
designed to place the seismometer on the surface and position the heat
flow probe - a mole that can burrow 16 feet (five meters) into the
It will take two to three months for InSight's robotic arm to set the
mission's instrument on the surface.For now, the robotic arm will be
taking pictures of Mars.
"We're going to take a selfie of the land," Ollennu told CNN via Skype.
"We are going to take the imagery of the workspace, and then we are
going to start planning how to get the instrument to the surface."
The engineer majored in Avionics at the Department of Aeronautical
Engineering, Queen Mary College, University of London and then obtained a
Ph. D. in Control Systems Engineering, at Cranfield University in the
He then moved to the US to do further research in robotics at Carnegie
Mellon University in Pittsburgh.