Mars Rovers with Keri Bean (#14)


We talk about Mars Rovers, Star Wars, and cake decorating.

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.

In our conversation, we talk about Mars Rovers, Star Wars, and cake decorating.

Watch on YouTube

Listen to the Podcast

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Castbox, Deezer, Goodpods, Overcast, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic, TuneIn, Blubrry, Digital Podcast, Gaana, Podcast Addict, Podchaser, Podhero, PlayerFM, JioSaavn, RSS, and other podcast platforms.

Apple PodcastsSpotifyiHeartRadioStitcher

Show Notes

[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.

Topics/Resources/People Mentioned


  • Williams, A. J., Eigenbrode, J., Floyd, M., Wilhelm, M. B., O'Reilly, S., Johnson, S. S., Craft, K. L., Knudson, C. A., Andrejkovičová, S., Lewis, J. M. T., Buch, A., Glavin, D. P., Freissinet, C., Williams, R. H., Szopa, C., Millan, M., Summons, R. E., McAdam, A., Benison, K., ...Mahaffy, P. R. (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(4), 522--546.


  • The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien BookDepository GoodReads

Additional Resources

Find out more about Keri Bean and their work

Connect with Us

Support STEAM Powered

Review Us

Please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, GoodPods, Podchaser, or your preferred podcatcher.

Become a Patron

Become a patron
Ko-Fi button iconSupport me on Ko-fi

Affiliate Programs

Buy your books from BookDepository. There are over 20 million titles and you get free delivery worldwide to over 150 countries on every order. Want some ideas? Check out the list of every book mentioned in our conversations, or authored by our guests.

Start your own podcast or YouTube channel, or run panels and seminars with Record up to 8 people in a session with up to 1000 audience members. You can record in advance as I do, or you can livestream with the option to send it straight to Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, or Twitch. There's even a green-room for guests and live call in for audience members. Afterwards, get separate video (up to 4K) and audio (up to 48kHz) tracks per recorded participant for editing, none of that “active speaker only” limitation. You know you're in good hands with a service whose client-base includes some heavy-hitters. Check out to see who else is on board. Use promo code STEAM25 to get 25% off the first three months of your subscription.

Music is “Gypsy Jazz in Paris 1935” by Brett Van Donsel.