A real life “Guardian of the Galaxy,” Dr. Moogega (pronounced Moo-ji-gae) Cooper holds the awesome responsibility of keeping the red planet safe from any of the Earth’s contaminants. Moo is the planetary protection lead of the famed NASA 2020 Mars mission—with it’s highly viewed landing on February 18, 2021. Her work is integral to the ongoing mission to discern whether Mars could be habitable for humans and that we don’t harm what’s already there—a job she has been working up to for most of her life. After graduating from high school at 16, Cooper studied physics as an undergraduate, received a master’s degree and went on to earn her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at 24 years old with a dissertation on spacecraft materials.
Moogega is a recipient of several awards, including the NASA Early Career Public Achievement Medal, the Charles Elachi Award for Exceptional Early Career Achievement, and JPL Voyager Awards for Technical Leadership.