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Adam Steltzner Looks Beyond Mars

Adam Steltzner led the team that designed the landing system that delivered Curiosity to the surface of Mars. Here he remembers this accomplishment and suggests future challenges in space exploration.


Conversation Club

  1. Adam Steltzner opens his video with a statement about the similarities between something “revolutionary” and something “crazy.” What do you think are the different meanings of the two words based on his statement? Can you think of examples (from history or your own life) of ideas or innovations that may have sounded absolutely crazy, but that were, in fact, revolutionary?
  2. What are some words you would use to describe Steltzner in this video? Does he seem brave? Intelligent? Inventive? What do you think it feels like to be him? If you met him and could ask one question, what would it be?
  3. Do you think that the ways in which expeditions to space are covered in the media and taught in schools has changed over time? For instance, do you think that the degree of coverage for the first landing on the moon was different than coverage for the Curiosity Rover landing on Mars? What might be reasons for this?
  4. Steltzner summarizes the many steps necessary to land the Curiosity Rover on the surface of Mars. After this explanation, what do you think was revolutionary about the landing system that Steltzner and his team designed?
  5. Steltzner gives a definition of “ingenuity” that involves thinking up something that is completely new. What do you think of that definition? Can you think of other examples of ingenuity? Do those examples have the same definition that Steltzner uses?
  6. Steltzner also talks about future space expeditions and mentions specifically a possible expedition to Europa, the ice moon of Jupiter. What do you think are some of the advantages gained by exploratory space travel? Do you think that it would be worthwhile to launch an expedition to that moon in the hope of finding signs of other life?
  7. Steltzner says that he “would like to go there” when discussing travel to the far moon of Europa. If you could go to space, would you? Why? If not, what other “crazy” thing might you like to try?
  8. Steltzner mentions that he was part of a team and in the video we see clips of many NASA engineers and scientists sitting at long work stations, working side-by-side. How do you think creativity and ingenuity are influenced by working collaboratively as a group versus working individually? Can you think of other examples where teams have worked together to create something impressive or innovative?

Video Series

This video exists as part of a series gathered around the theme of Education. Other videos in this series are listed below.

Saumil Bandyopadhyay’s Nanoscale Infrared Detector
Saumil Bandyopadhyay’s Nanoscale Infrared Detector
Adam Steltzner Looks Beyond Mars
Adam Steltzner Looks Beyond Mars
Smithsonian's Climate Change Statement
Smithsonian's Climate Change Statement
Bill Morrison’s masterpiece of found footage
Bill Morrison’s masterpiece of found footage
Expanding College Opportunities
Expanding College Opportunities
Is Human Evolution Over?
Is Human Evolution Over?
Voice of Witness
Voice of Witness
A Passionate Educator
A Passionate Educator