Meet the Ghanaian scientist who built NASA's latest spacecraft to land on Mars
Dr Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu is the chief engineer of a team formed to design robots for NASA missions at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, California, United States.
The spacecraft which is called InSight is expected to study the Mars' underworld, listening for marsquakes and seeking clues about the dusty world’s formation.
The team lead for InSight at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is Ghanaian. Dr Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu is the chief engineer of a team formed to design robots for NASA missions at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, California, United States.
Dr Trebi-Ollennu has worked on other aircraft as well. He worked on the Phoenix aircraft that found water on Mars in 2008. He also contributed to the Mars Exploration Rover project in 2003 and the Mars Science Laboratory in 2011.
He also designed the robotic arm, which will dig deep beneath the surface of the planet to see explore how it was formed.
According to Dr Trebi-Ollennu, he developed the interest in space crafts when he was growing up in Accra, Ghana.
“I lived very close to the airport, so I was very interested in aircraft flying and I always dreamt of taking humans out of the cockpit and making computers fly.”
Due to his interest, he read literature on the “glass cockpit” for commercial and military aircraft.
Dr Trebi-Ollennu was born in Ghana. He attended a primary school in Burma Camp and later the Ghana Secondary Technical School. He attended the Queen Mary College, the University of London where he earned his bachelor of Engineering in avionics in 1991. He continued his education at the Royal Military College Science located at Cranfield University in the United Kingdom, earning his PhD in 1996.
At Carnegie Mellon University where he was a research scholar, he formulated a system for All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) for distributed tactical surveillance for (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) DARPA.
Dr Trebi-Ollennu is a fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, U. K., and the Royal Aeronautical Society, U.K. and the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences.
In his career, Dr Trebi-Ollennu has won many awards such as the NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal (2008); Sir Monty Finniston Achievement Medal (2007) for outstanding technical contribution to any field of Engineering from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET); Outstanding Engineer Award (2007); JPL Mariner Award from MER for outstanding leadership in the analysis and resolution of the IDD unstow anomaly on Opportunity rover (2006); NASA Group Achievement Award-Mars Exploration Rover Avionics Team (2004); and the NASA Group Achievement Award-Mars Exploration Rover Flight System, Management and Engineering Team (2004) to name a few.
In 2011, he founded the Ghana Robotics Academy Foundation a non-profit volunteer organization hoping to “pioneer science education through administering hands-on robotics workshops and competitions throughout Ghana for Junior Secondary Schools, Senior Secondary Schools, and Colleges.”
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