Speaker: Shannah Withrow

Speaker: Shannah Withrow, Aerospace Engineer, NASA Ames Research Center

The Future of Mars Helicopters

Free and open to the public.

Ingenuity has shown that flying in the Martian atmosphere is possible and that helicopters can provide critical insight and support to ground-based assets. Though Ingenuity was designed for five flights, to date, 66 flights have been completed with ~119 min of flight time and ~9 miles flown. What would it take for an Ingenuity-class helicopter to help return the first samples from Mars to Earth? The smallest robotic arm ever flown on Mars, more capable rotors, a driving system, and flight software upgrades to start. The Mars Sample Recovery Helicopters are in development to provide backup to the Perseverance rover as part of the Mars Sample Return mission concept. Come hear about the work required to quickly transition a helicopter design from a technology demonstrator to a flying, driving, sample-collecting capable vehicle and the potential future of rotorcraft on Mars.

Shannah Withrow-Maser is an Aerospace Engineer at NASA Ames Research Center. She is the Aeronautics System Lead for the Mars Sample Recovery Helicopter and the Vehicle Systems Lead for the Mars Science Helicopter, the next generation of Mars rotorcraft which will enable exploration of previously inaccessible regions of Mars for science and human exploration.

Shannah joined the NASA Ames community in 2014 as a first-generation college student in the Aeromechanics Internship Program and converted to full-time civil service in 2019 after completing the Pathways Program. Outside of the Mars rotorcraft program, Shannah has supported handling qualities work in the Vertical Motion Simulator, mentored ~160 high school, undergraduate, and graduate college students, and is currently working on adapting rotorcraft tools from urban air mobility and Mars applications to the extreme environments on natural disasters. She was also a founding member of the first-ever Ames Early Career Advisory Group and agency-wide NASA United Early Career Group. Shannah is a member of the 2023 Forbes 30 Under 30 class, and seeks to embody the quote from Ayesha Siddiqi, “Be the person you needed when you were younger.”