Mars Rovers with Keri Bean

Release Date:
Keri Bean is a Systems Engineer at NASA JPL where she is the deputy lead Rover Planner and Helicopter Integration Engineer.

Join us as we talk about the Curiosity Mars rover, Star Wars, and cake decorating.

About Keri Bean

Keri Bean (tw: @PlanetaryKeri) is a systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. She is the deputy lead Rover Planner (aka Mars rover driver) on the Curiosity Mars rover and is a Helicopter Integration Engineer for the Mars 2020 mission. She got her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Texas A&M University in meteorology, with her focus on studying the weather on Mars. Her hobbies mostly center around Star Wars, as she is an active member of the R2-D2 Builder’s Club with her very own Astromech and cosplays with the Rebel Legion.


Papers authored by Keri Bean or mentioned in our conversation.

  • Williams, AJ, Eigenbrode, J, Floyd, M, Wilhelm, MB, O'Reilly, S, Johnson, SS, Craft, KL, Knudson, CA, Andrejkovičová, S, Lewis, JMT, Buch, A, Glavin, DP, Freissinet, C, Williams, RH, Szopa, C, Millan, M, Summons, RE, McAdam, A, Benison, K, Navarro-González, R, Malespin, C, and Mahaffy, PR (2019). Recovery of Fatty Acids from Mineralogic Mars Analogs by TMAH Thermochemolysis for the Sample Analysis at Mars Wet Chemistry Experiment on the Curiosity Rover. Astrobiology, 19, 522--546.

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[00:37] Keri’s pursuit of meteorology.
[01:50] Astronomy as a potential path.
[02:12] Possible career paths in space.
[02:44] Her introduction to Space Weather
[03:35] Keri’s first experiences with the rover missions.
[03:54] Spirit and Opportunity Rovers.
[04:51] Phoenix Mars Lander.
[05:54] Applying her meteorology studies to her rover mission experiences.
[06:33] Curiosity Rover.
[06:50] Keri’s path to JPL.
[08:58] Dawn Mission.
[09:55] Filling the gaps in knowledge between her meteorology background and her work.
[10:36] Test beds.
[11:44] Building her own R2-D2.
[14:28] On becoming a Rover Planner.
[16:03] The process for certifying to be a Rover Planner.
[18:42] Certifying for individual Rovers.
[19:10] Her role as a Helicopter Integration Engineer on the Perseverance Rover drone, Ingenuity.
[20:11] Earth-side duplicate and testing of the drone.
[21:39] A day in the life of Keri.
[22:56] Working remotely.
[26:22] Coming up next for Curiosity and Perseverance.
[26:34] Curiosity: Wet Chemistry Experiment.
[27:28] Perseverance: Landing Day.
[27:59] Preparations for Landing Day.
[29:03] Flight software transitions.
[30:54] Handling the unexpected.
[32:14] Bonus Question 1: What hobby or interest do you have that is most unrelated to your field of work?
[34:07] Keri’s cosplay.
[36:46] Porgs and PORGs.
[40:27] Bonus Question 2: Which childhood book holds the strongest memories for you?
[42:04] Bonus Question 3: What advice you would give someone who wants to do what you do? Or what advice should they ignore?
[43:03] Exploring other topics if they are of interest.
[43:21] Gaining astronomy experience with the HUBBLE
[45:38] Reaching out to Keri.

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