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Mars, a Robotic Arm, and the Most Important Question of Our Time


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Mars, a Robotic Arm, and the Most Important Question of Our Time

Diana Trujillo, a NASA flight director, discusses the future of space travel and the search for signs of life on the red planet.

April 8, 2021

Produced by ‘Sway’

In a few days, a helicopter is slated to take off — on Mars. If successful, it would be a historic moment for NASA: the first powered flight of an aircraft in the atmosphere of another planet.

The Ingenuity chopper arrived on the red planet in February, attached to the Perseverance rover as part of a mission that ultimately aims to determine whether there has ever been life on Mars. Diana Trujillo, the flight director in charge of Perseverance’s robotic arm, has a bold prediction, saying, “I don’t think we’re alone.”

On this episode of “Sway,” Kara Swisher and Trujillo discuss the high-stakes operation, the implications of extraterrestrial life, and why private investments by billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk might help us advance space travel to a point where we could “take the 5 o’clock shuttle to Mars.”

Credit…Illustration by The New York Times; Photograph, via NASA

Thoughts? Email us at Transcripts of each episode are available midday.

Special thanks to Michelle Harris, Shannon Busta and Liriel Higa.

“Sway” is hosted by Kara Swisher, produced by Nayeema Raza, Blakeney Schick, Heba Elorbany, Matt Kwong and Daphne Chen, and edited by Nayeema Raza and Paula Szuchman; fact-checking by Kate Sinclair; music and sound design by Isaac Jones; mixing by Erick Gomez.

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