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To MARS with MER - RESEARCH/ers

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

P2K: We're standing in front of a rather large American flag. To what extent do you think that exploring Mars, exploring the solar system, is something that you're proud to contribute to the nation?

Adam Steltzner: Well, I'm going to wax philosophical here for a second - just philo-political for a second. I mentioned this gene of exploration, and I think that that, I honestly think that we physically, all of us, have that curiosity gene within our makeup of who we are, all of us, as human beings.

But I believe that also that more than any other nation, because of the history of our nation, and how we came to be, that written into the story, the mythology of America, and what it means to be an American, is this exploration, this independence, this striving to go beyond what is known. And so I'm extremely proud as an American, as a human being, to be part of the exploration of Mars and of our solar system and, to the extent that I have, to be able to support and promote the tendrils of our understanding, reaching out into the... past our current sphere of knowledge and into the unknown, expanding our understanding. I'm very proud to be part of it. I think it is a very human issue and also a very American instinct. I feel quite "American" participating in it.

P2K: All these things - the DIMES (descent imager camera) system suddenly appears out of nowhere. Is there a chance that the Mars Exploration Rovers are ...a spacecraft designed by a committee with camel-like protrusions instead of a horse-like, racehorse-like sprint to the end?

Adam Steltzner: I do completely admit to the fact that it has a little "Rube Goldberg" features to it. It's a little off. It seems like a ball of Band-aids, perhaps, and it's hard to see what the initial problem was because there are so many Band-aids. That said, it was not designed by committee. It was designed by a team, and that team worked really hard to understand the bits and pieces and how they interacted. And I'm very confident that even though it appears as many little pieces that solve this big puzzle of EDL, especially, that it works together as a coherent system and it gets us what we need-it gets us the performance we need.

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