"Dare mighty things" concludes the most dramatic space video in years, "Seven Minutes of Terror." Narrated by Adam Steltzner, it spelled out how the "sky crane" his team designed at JPL would have to perform an elaborate, impossible-seeming sequence to lower the huge Mars rover Curiosity to the planet's surface from a hovering rocket guided totally by artificial intelligence. Humans wouldn't know if it worked until it was all over. Hence the terror.
The actual Mars landing on August 6, 02012, went perfectly, and Steltzner found himself a TV superstar after the live coverage, and the subject of a New Yorker profile. Before the landing, Steltzner told the writer: "Six vehicle configurations. Seventy-six pyrotechnic devices. Five hundred thousand lines of code. ZERO margin of error.....You and I are sitting at the edge of an event horizon, like a black hole.... Sunday night, we'll slip into it, and at least two universes will be awaiting us on the other side: the one where we succeed and the one where we fail. People are scared shitless now. But if we stick the landing, all of a sudden they'll be saying, 'Hey, how about doing the next one the same way?' "
Fans in the San Francisco area discovered he was local talent, the product of College of Marin, a kid who discovered science late and soared to meet it.
Now he wonders, "How does our exploration of Mars inform what might come next for us humans and our Earth?"
Dare mighty things.
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.