So, this sort of relates to John Green’s letter. He talks about “landing a Mini Cooper on Mars.” And in particular, he calls out Adam Steltzner, the Lead Engineer for Entry Descent and Landing at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (in other words…he’s responsible for Curiosity not crashing on the surface of Mars.)
Last week, Marty Moss-Cohane, who hosts the show Radio Times on WHYY interviewed Mr. Steltzner as well as Frank Hartman, who is the Curiosity driver (he controls the rover by remote). I picked this because 1) the whole Curiosity thing is just so stinkin’ cool; and 2) part way through the show, she asks them about education and what they were like as students. You’d think two guys who work at The Jet Propulsion Laboratory and have designed and are responsible for placing a rover on Mars would be top guys in their class and have degrees from fancy-schmancy colleges, right? Well, you’d be wrong. Steltzner talks about how he just wasn’t a good student in high school. And Hartman started out as an engineering student at Drexel, but dropped out to go to art school. His background…game design. The interview’s a little long, but download it, put it on your iPod and listen on the bus or in the car on your way to school one day. I promise, it’s really interesting.