Rocket scientist Adam Steltzner recalls the strange journey that took him from failing high school geometry--twice--to an engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he and his team pulled off one of the most heart-stopping landings ever attempted on the surface of Mars.
Adam D. Steltzner is an Engineering Fellow at Jet Propulsion Laboratory and is leading the development of the Sampling System for the Mars2020 project. Most recently he was the Manager of the Entry, Descent and Landing phase of the Mars Science Laboratory project. Adam received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from UC Davis 1990, he earned his MS in Applied Mechanics from Caltech, where he was the Hellwig Fellow in structural engineering, in 1991 and his Ph.D. in Engineering Physics, from UW Madison in 1999. Adam joined the JPL in 1991 and has worked on various projects including Galileo, Cassini, Mars Pathfinder, Champollion, and Comet Nucleus Sample Return, Mars Exploration Rovers and the Mars Science Laboratory. His research interests include, structural dynamics, input force determination, mechanical design, systems engineering, and leadership of high performance teams. He most recently led the team that developed the Curiosity Rover’s landing system. He is increasingly aware of the importance of team culture and dynamics in delivering a team’s final product.