Chat with a Scientist: Mars Rover Launch

Member Virtual Event | July 30, 2020

On July 30, 2020, the Perseverance rover lifted off for its mission to search for signs of life on Mars. This Members-only special event was recorded live via Zoom, featuring a panel discussion with science experts including the Science Center’s scientist-in-residence, Dr. Sheyna Gifford, and questions submitted by viewers.

This Chat with a Scientist Member event is made available for free as part of the Science Center’s commitment to connecting our community with science. To be part of exciting events like these, become a member today; and if you’d like to show additional support for science learning throughout the St. Louis community, become a Supporting Member.

Meet the Panel
Dr. Sheyna Gifford (MD, MBA, MS, MA)
Dr. Gifford is a rehabilitation physician at Washington University/Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. Originally from Studio City, CA, Dr. Gifford has been a scientist-in-residence at the St. Louis Science Center and an alien-in-residence for NASA in multiple space simulations. She is a STEM mentor and advocate, researcher, journalist, and professional science communicator.

Image courtesy of
Nerissa Escanlar
Dr. Aaron Gronstal
Dr. Aaron Gronstal is an astrobiologist and began working with NASA as a geomicrobiologist. Dr. Gronstal is now engaging in science communication for astrobiology as a communications specialist with the NASA Astrobiology Program. He is most widely known for creating the Astrobiology graphic novel history series, Astrobiology: The Story of our Search for Life in the Universe. Issue 2 of the graphic history focuses on missions to Mars, from NASA’s first efforts to the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover.

Belinda Shreckengost
Belinda Shreckengost is a Thermal Systems Engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the last 15 years, joining the Mars 2020 mission 5 years ago. She supported the project through the design phase, hardware fabrication, assembly, and hardware testing. Thermal Engineers are responsible for verifying that the system is able to maintain spacecraft temperatures within acceptable limits – both during the Cruise to Mars and during Rover surface operations.

Andrzej Stewart
Image courtesy of
NASAJSC/Bill Stafford

Andrzej Stewart
Andrzej Stewart is an experienced spacecraft operator for a wide variety of NASA missions. He’s worked as a spacecraft mission controller for the Spitzer Space Telescope, Juno, GRAIL, and NASA’s Mars orbiter fleet. Andrzej now works in Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center, training as a Navigator for the upcoming Artemis missions of the Orion spacecraft. He is also a 1st Lieutenant in the Civil Air Patrol, serving as the Texas Wing Emergency Services Training Officer, and also as a Search and Rescue/Disaster Recovery Mission Pilot and Aerial Photographer.

Andrzej earned degrees in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and aspires to be a NASA astronaut. In pursuing that, he has served as the Flight Engineer of HERA C2M2, a two-week asteroid mission simulation at the Johnson Space Center, and as Chief Engineering Officer of HI-SEAS IV, a year-long Mars simulation in Hawaii.