NASA rocket scientist tells Midlanders to always be curious

NASA rocket scientist tells Midlanders to always be curious

MIDLAND, TX (KWES) - A rocket scientist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory visited Midland at the Museum of the Southwest for his book signing and lecture.

Adam Steltzner is the lead NASA Engineer for the Curiosity Rover mission to Mars. But he's not your average rocket scientist.

His childhood started out with an interest in music but lacking in mathematics.

"I convinced myself I was a poor student," Steltzner tells us. "I was really incapable of doing math. In fact, in high school, I took geometry twice and moved on past geometry with an F+. I was a terrible student. I was interested in sex, drugs and rock n' roll."

One night changed his life completely when wondered why the stars moved at night.

"My brain opened up, several years of blood, sweat and tears, a lot of elbow grease, I'm now working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory leading missions that land on Mars," he added.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, based in California, is a facility that works under NASA and builds robotic spacecraft. Steltzner explains his Curiosity Rover mission in his book, The Right Kind of Crazy. He touches on the power of human curiosity and why he encourages people to always question life because it could lead you to new heights.

"Because her [spacecraft] name is Curiosity, my book is about human curiosity," said Steltzner. "Human exploration and how we, humans are these powerful crazy, creative, curious beasts. Curiosity in some sense is the right kind of crazy. It leads us to great heights and shape everything we see in our world."

Steltzner's team launched a spacecraft called the Curiosity Rover on Mars in 2012. The craft was able to view types of terrain on Mars to find out if life could have once existed there.

"The Curiosity Rover on Mars, the public reaction was so strong," he said. "But the response of people indicating to me we were doing something more, the act of exploration was more profoundly a gesture of our humanity. I see it when I meet people, when I travel the country, I come to places like Midland here, people are moved deeply by the act of exploration. Always ask why. Always be curious."

His next project is the Mars 2020 Rover, where NASA will launch and land a craft on Mars in July/August 2020. The rover will take core samples of rock on Mars and return them to Earth in vials.

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