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Adam Steltzner

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Adam Steltzner Adam Steltzner
Lead NASA engineer for the Mars rover, Curiosity
How Curiosity Changed My Life

Tuesday, March 25, 2014
7 p.m. – J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts
Bezemes Family Theater
*Ticket Required. Free tickets available at the Box Office.

As chief engineer and development manager for the Mars Science Laboratory focused on entry descent and landing phase, Adam Steltzner’s job was to ensure that the intricately designed NASA Mars rover vehicle, Curiosity, landed safely.

Steltzner was in charge of all the mechanical engineering elements of entry, descent and landing for the Mars Exploration Rovers. In 2004, he was 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. (View the episode at

Steltzner, who has a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Davis and a master’s degree from the California Institute of Technology, says today’s engineers must think critically to extend their skills and influence outside their area of specific expertise.

Now, he and his team design, build, and fly the systems that, at 50 miles above Mars, will slow the new rover from a speed of nearly 15,000 miles per hour and deliver it safely to the planet’s surface. “The technical job of designing and developing these complex engineering systems is challenging and very rewarding to me,” says Steltzner. “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.”

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