The Root 100 - The Most Influential African Americans in 2020 - 49: Moogega Cooper

Oleg Dyachenko
·1 min read

Protecting planets is a big job. Who better than a Black woman to do it? Enter Moogega Cooper, who is tasked with the very cool duty of keeping Mars safe from Earth's contaminants when the 2020 rover-which launched this summer-lands on the planet early next year. As a planetary protection engineer with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Cooper is integral to the ongoing mission to discern whether Mars could be habitable for humans: She is ensuring that we don't harm what already exists there while researchers learn more about the planet. It's a job she's 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. She's also passionate about introducing more people to the wonders of the STEM world, including by talking about her work to boys and girls from underrepresented communities and appearing on shows like _Because Space_ and _Bill Nye Saves the World._