As a teenager, all Adam Steltzner wanted to be was a rock star. Although music didn’t become his career, he still sports an Elvis-style pompadour and went on to become one of the rock stars of technology and innovation for NASA–leading the team that engineered the remarkable landing of the Mars Rover “Curiosity” on the red planet in August of 2012.
As the face of the Mars Science Laboratory mission for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Steltzner serves as the chief landing engineer and landing system development manager and was responsible for the entry, descent and landing phase to ensure that the intricately designed Mars rover vehicle landed safely. This historic moment was hailed by President Obama who said, “The successful landing of Curiosity – the most sophisticated roving laboratory ever to land on another planet – marks an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future.” Adam was personally called out by name during President Obama’s thank you call to the team.
In 2004, Steltzner was also among the scientists and engineers featured on the NOVA episode “MARS Dead or Alive,” which chronicled the process that ultimately delivered the rovers Spirit and Opportunity to Mars. Steltzner, who has a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Davis, a master’s degree from the California Institute of Technology, and his doctorate from University of Wisconsin at Madison, says today’s engineers must think critically to extend their skills and influence outside their area of specific expertise.
Reflecting on how his team designed, built and flew the rover, then delivered it safely to the planet’s surface, Steltzner says, “The technical job of designing and developing these complex engineering systems is challenging and very rewarding to me. There are very few days when I don’t have a moment or two to think as hard as I possibly can. I like that.”
Friendly Reminder from BCA:: Make sure your car takes you to the Union League on the 26th!
Location: The Union League, 140 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102, USA