Former La. Cadet Worked on Mars Helicopter Design
2nd Lt. Anne Calvert
Public Affairs Officer
St. Tammany Composite Squadron
A former Louisiana Wing cadet, Rebecca Oppenheim, and fellow engineers on her NASA design team will soon be nervously watching and waiting for the signal that the Mars helicopter, Ingenuity, had completed its first flight on the Red Planet.
Ingenuity traveled almost 300 million miles in the belly of the Mars land rover, Perseverance. Last week the rover was taking selfies with the helicopter in Mars' Jezero Crater, where the first controlled powered flight ever conducted on another planet will take place once NASA provides final clearance.
During an internship at NASA's Ames Research Center in California, Oppenheim worked for six months on the team that designed the helicopter’s blades.
She started her journey into aerospace engineering, modeling and simulation when she was a young girl at a summer camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. She knew from then on she wanted to design things that fly and to send them into space.
Oppenheim worked hard in high school studying math and science and participating on the robotics team. She was also active in the Louisiana Wing’s St. Tammany Composite Squadron her last two years of high school, having joined because of her interest in flying and because she was seriously contemplating attending the U.S. Air Force Academy.
CAP’s aerospace education activities and classes complemented Oppenheim’s high school academic endeavors. After high school she studied aerospace engineering at Mississippi State University, graduating magna cum laude in 2018. She has since worked for NASA and is now a U.S. Army employee.
Oppenheim’s father, Daniel Oppenheim, joined the squadron to support her efforts. He now holds the CAP rank of captain and is the Louisiana Wing’s legal officer as well as a mission pilot and cadet orientation pilot.