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

Editor: We last spoke with Adam on a rainy afternoon at Cape Canaveral on June 9th, when the launch had been postponed for the second time. Adam expected to have to leave early the next morning, before the launch opportunity for that day. He looked pretty blue... so we asked him...

P2K: The official line is that's what launch windows are for, you shouldn't be depressed, you shouldn't have the blues because of this kind of thing.

Adam Steltzner: That's right, and that's true, that's true. You know, when I first came out here (to Florida) just a couple days ago to see this, I didn't realize actually how important it was going to feel for me to be here. And I can't really put my finger on what makes it feel so important.

It probably started yesterday morning at the roll-out, where it's 5:30 or 6 in the morning, and humid, and warm, and the Sun has yet to rise, and this kind of weird blob of a gantry slowly rolls back and exposes the launch vehicle with the payload fairing up there, and I started looking at that tiny payload fairing and thinking of how much people's time, how many - what's the metric? - "thought-moments" or "brain-hours" or "effort units" were inside of that payload fairing. I mean, it's actually really kind of intense when you think about it. I mean, all the guys and women working here, getting this thing ready, have been working their tails off for the last six or eight months. I have not been working that hard on this for the last six or eight months because for a lot of it the "die is cast" in my effort. But, you know, the payload fairing is, well, less than from this window to the edge of that booth. (He points out the dimensions in the restaurant.) And inside of the volume that would be about the size of a tent - a camping tent is about the size of the volume of the spacecraft - there's an army of people who have worked, you know, to the edge of their marriages, to long nights. And what we're trying to do with what's inside, just that level of effort, that level of human commitment, I don't know, is somehow moving for me.

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