- In a video conference call with Dr. Swati Mohan of NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover team, he said the historic landing restored a dose of confidence in the American people.
In an interaction with Dr. Swati Mohan, the aerospace engineer behind Perseverance rover’s landing on Mars, President Joe Biden gave a shout out to Indian Americans. “Indian — of descent — Americans are taking over the country: you; my Vice President; my speechwriter, Vinay [Reddy]. I tell you what. But thank you. You guys are incredible.” Biden was speaking to Mohan and Dr. Michael M. Watkins, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, on a video conference call, March 4.
Biden congratulated the NASA team responsible for the successful landing. Mohan is among many Indian American scientists, engineers and missile developers, who have been working on the Mars Mission, including space roboticist Vandana ‘Vandi’ Verma, chief engineer for Robotic Operations of the rover, and Vishu Sridhar, 27, an instrument engineer for SuperCam on the rover.
In the call that reportedly lasted a little over 10 minutes, the president praised the team and said the landing is a bright spot that has come at a rough time for the nation. He said the NASA team “created a dream for millions and millions of young kids, young Americans. You all did this — the whole team — the team I can see now and the entire team at JPL — what you did: You restored a dose of confidence in the American people,” he said. “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,” he said. “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.
“One of the reasons why we’re such an incredible country is we’re such a diverse country. We bring the best out of every single solitary culture in the world here in the United States of America, and we give people an opportunity to let their — let their dreams run forward.”
Last month, NASA named Bhavya Lal as acting chief of staff for the agency. As the senior White House appointee at NASA, Lal served as a member of the Biden Presidential Transition Agency Review Team for the agency. In that capacity she oversaw the agency’s transition under the administration of President Joe Biden.
Throughout his campaign, Biden had promised to have a staff and cabinet that reflected the diversity of the country, and he has stayed true to his words. He has appointed over 50 Indian Americans to key leadership positions in his administration, representing almost all departments and agencies. Biden made history last August by choosing Kamala Devi Harris as his running mate, making her the first woman, the first African American and the first Indian American vice president.
Earlier this week, Biden appointed Maju Varghese as his deputy assistant and director of the White House Military Office, while Obama administration veteran Kiran Ahuja was nominated to be the director of the Office of Personnel Management. Pakistani American tech entrepreneur Dilawar Syed was nominated to be deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration.
Some of Biden appointees include Sri Preston Kulkarni, chief of External Affairs at AmeriCorps, the federal agency for volunteering and service; Sonali Nijhawan, director of AmeriCorps State and National; Daleep Singh, Deputy National Security Advisor and Deputy National Economic Council Director; Varun Sivaram, Senior Adviser to Special Presidential Envoy for Climate; Uzra Zeya, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, State Department; Aisha Shah, Partnership Manager, White House Office of Digital Strategy; Sameera Fazili, Deputy Director, National Economic Council; 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; Mala Adiga, Policy Director to Dr Jill Biden; Garima Verma, digital director of the Office of the First Lady; Sonia Aggarwal, senior advisor for Climate Policy and Innovation; Neha Gupta, Associate Counsel, Office of White House Counsel; Reema Shah, Deputy Associate Counsel, Office of White House Counsel; Pronita Gupta, Special Assistant to the President for Labor and Workers on the Domestic Policy Council; Dr. Pritesh Gandhi, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Homeland Security; Dr. Raj Panjabi, President’s Malaria Coordinator; Sohini Chatterjee, senior policy adviser, U.S. Mission UN; Aditi Gorur, policy adviser, U.S. Mission UN; Tanya Das, 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; NASA; 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; Gautam Raghavan, Deputy Director in Office of Presidential Personnel; Bharat Ramamurti, Deputy Director of National Economic Council; Tarun Chhabra, Senior Director for Technology and National Security at National Security Council White House; and Vedant Patel, Assistant Press Secretary.
This week, Rohit Chopra, Biden’s pick to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, testified before the Senate Banking Committee. Last week, Vivek Murthy testified before a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, for U.S. Surgeon General, while Vanita Gupta, nominee for Associate Attorney General will begin her confirmation hearing on March 9. However, the Biden administration had its first major setback this week as the White House withdrew the nomination of Neera Tanden as director of the Office of Management and Budget.