Bay Area science stud led Mars rover landing

(KGO)
August 23, 2012 9:46:17 PM PDT
NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover passed its first driving test this week traveling about 15 feet on Martian terrain Wednesday. Now, NASA has its sights on longer treks. The ultimate destination is a nearby mountain where Curiosity will analyze layers of rock to see if water had any role in their formation.

The man who headed up the Mars landing earlier this month is a Bay Area native. High school was tough for him, but he is now a superstar. A remarkable scientific accomplishment, heading up the delicate landing of Curiosity is the Bay Area's Adam Steltzner. "It was incredible," he says. Adam grew up in Sausalito and attended Tam High School in Mill Valley where getting good grades was secondary. Who knew the guy with the pompadour like his dad would grow up to become a science superstar. "He's definitely rock star status now," says Adam's Uncle Dick.

Dick is a grower and winemaker in Napa Valley. He's owned his acreage in Stags Leap for more than 45 years. "Here's a smart kid that wasn't challenged in traditional teaching methods," he says. Adam was flunking most classes. He was a rock and roller with the band "Stick figures." His last group was appropriately called "Exit" because something happened. "Curiosity, actually got me, there," Adams says.

Fascinated by the changing stars in the sky, Adam became an engineer. "At College of Marin Kentfield, I took a conceptual physics course and that just blew my mind and that changed my world," he recalls. His big triumph has been Curiosity. Uncle Dick watched with Adam and said you could feel the energy. "I was elated because here's my nephew, who we knew was smart and had done very well in JPL," he says.

Dick is making a special bottling of a wine called "Curiosity." It was on his property in the wine country that Adam got married a little more than a year ago. And certainly, his uncle has followed him every step of the way from those troubling times as a teenager in high school to Adam's new success as a superstar. Adam is about to become a dad for the second time. Asked what her name will be he says, "Under no circumstances will her name be Curiousity."

Adam Steltzner... proving that if you're motivated and work hard, great things can happen.

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