Suburban man is driving force behind success of NASA Mars mission

A Winnetka native is one of the driving forces behind the success of NASA's latest Mars mission -- he literally drives a Rover around.

Rich Rieber is the mobility systems engineer for the Perseverance Mars Rover, which landed successfully in February.

"We're looking for bacteria," he said. "We're not looking for almond-eyed aliens here."

Rieber grew up in Winnetka and graduated from New Trier High School. He says it’s his experience in space camp that got him interested in rocket science.

Via Zoom, he gave us a tour of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., where the Perseverance Rover was built, and where it’s twin still resides. He showed us the so-called "Mars Yard" where they test the Rover vehicles.

"I drive a remote controlled car the size of a Hummer. It's pretty fun," Rieber said.

Rieber says so far the mission has been nearly flawless, Including the test flight of the Ingenuity Mars helicopter, which hovered above the surface for about 30 seconds.