Rockville High School grad worked on Mars helicopter flight

Rockville High School graduate Taryn Bailey says she first grew interested in science because of early exposure to science fairs and her dad's job as an engineer.

Now she's on the NASA team that made a historic helicopter flight on Mars possible.

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Bailey grew up in Montgomery County and attended Goucher College and later Columbia University, where she got her engineering degree.

Bailey is a mechanical engineer and helps make machines, like the Ingenuity helicopter, operate in space in her job with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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"It's still hitting me to be quite honest," said Bailey.

The Monday flight at 10 feet and with a 30-second hover considered a first and a major success that will likely lead to more exploration of Mars and possibly other planets.

"The flight went beautifully, honestly nearly perfect, so yea I'm just super amped and happy," Bailey said.

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The accomplishment is considered especially difficult because it is much harder to fly a helicopter in Mars' atmosphere, where Bailey says there is less resistance in the air to create lift.

She says she hopes to inspire other young people and especially girls and people of color to become interested in math and science-based careers.

"I attribute a lot of my interest in science to having that exposure at a young age, like participating in science fairs, visiting my dad at take your child to work day, so I think having opportunities like that be more accessible to kids at a younger age is definitely the right path to go down," Bailey said.