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Adam Steltzner
EDL (Entry, Descent and Landing) Lead Mechanical Engineer
Mars Exploration Rovers mission
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

P2K: This (EDL) system is really where rubber hits the road, it's where the spacecraft hits the planet, and it's got your signature all over it. How does that make you personally feel?

Adam Steltzner: That makes me feel great. It's been, it's certainly been the high point of my career, producing, working on this essential phase of the mission. You know, I think probably everybody thinks that their piece of the mission is the most important, and I stand there right with them, and I think my piece is the most important in that EDL is where you... (He thinks, and puts things in a larger context.)

We have a long history, the human species has a long history of placing robotic spacecraft in orbit around planets, and moons, and asteroids - we've done a lot. We have much less history involved in actually going to the surface of a planet. And the big problem with going to the surface of a planet, in my opinion, is the Entry, Descent and Landing problem. Showing up at a planet at about five kilometers a second, or let's call it two to three miles a second, and then slowing yourself down to something like three to ten miles an hour - doing that job is a lot of work, and to do it you interact with this unknown environment. We don't really know what the winds on Mars are like. We have some atmospheric data but we don't have solid data. And ultimately when you get done, you land on a surface that we don't know what it looks like yet, so to me it's the hardest part of the puzzle. It's been an absolutely incredible experience, very gratifying experiencing, to work on this. It is the high point of my career.

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