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American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics



    Dr. Adam Steltzner Awarded Inaugural Yvonne C. Brill Lectureship
    Honored for Championing and Leading Development of the Mars Entry Descent and Landing Program

    August 11, 2014 – Reston, Va. – Dr. Adam Steltzner, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Fellow, NASA JPL, Pasadena, Calif., has been selected to deliver the inaugural Yvonne C. Brill Lecture on Tuesday, September 30, 2014, during a symposium in conjunction with the National Academy of Engineering’s (NAE) annual meeting. Steltzner will speak on “Engineering the Mars Entry Descent and Landing (EDL) System."

    “Yvonne Brill’s genius changed how satellites propel their way through our universe, so it is fitting that AIAA and NAE have selected an individual whose work has transformed human exploration of the universe,” said Sandra Magnus, AIAA executive director. “The development of the Sky-Crane delivery system for the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity Rover) not only answered the question – how do we put a car-sized object on Mars? – it showed what is possible when a visionary leader inspires their team to achieve seemingly impossible things. Adam’s leadership and the team’s achievement is an example for those who seek to transform the status quo and continuously evolve our society’s frontiers of knowledge. Congratulations to Adam on his receipt of the Brill Lectureship.”

    The Yvonne C. Brill Lectureship in Aerospace Engineering, sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics with the participation and support of NAE, emphasizes research or engineering issues for space travel and exploration, aerospace education of students and the public, and other aerospace issues such as ensuring a diverse and robust engineering community. The lecture honors AIAA Honorary Fellow and NAE member Yvonne C. Brill, best known for developing a revolutionary propulsion system that remains the industry standard for geostationary satellite station-keeping.

    Steltzner is being honored for his leadership of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity Rover Entry Descent and Landing team and the team’s development of the novel “sky-crane” delivery system that successfully landed the MSL Curiosity Rover on Mars in 2012. The “sky-crane” system, necessitated by the size and weight of Curiosity, allowed placement of the rover on the Martian surface with greater accuracy and precision than was previously possible with older technology. During the rover’s decent on August 5, 2012, dubbed "7 Minutes of Terror," the system behaved flawlessly, slowing the rover’s descent and then gently lowering it to the surface where it could immediately begin its exploration tasks. The team’s technology is expected to be used on future missions, including the Mars 2020 Rover, greatly improving the performance and safety of future rover missions.

    In addition to his championing of the “sky-crane” system, Steltzner’s communication skills have been credited with reviving the public’s interest in the American space program, stimulating excitement about the future of space exploration, and inspiring the next generation of aerospace engineers to pursue even greater technological innovations.

    Stelzner’s previous honors include the 2014 International Academy of Astronautics’ Astronautics Engineer Award; NASA’s 2013 Outstanding Leadership Medal; Smithsonian magazine’s 2013 American Ingenuity Award for Technology; the AIAA Foundation’s 2013 Award for Excellence; and World Technology Network’s 2012 Space Technologist of the Year award.

    For more information about the AIAA Honors and Awards program, please contact Carol Stewart at or 703.264.7623.


    About AIAA
    AIAA is the largest aerospace professional society in the world, serving a diverse range of more than 35,000 individual members from 80 countries, and 100 corporate members. AIAA members help make the world safer, more connected, more accessible, and more prosperous. For more information, visit, or follow us on Twitter @AIAA.

    About NEA
    The NAE is a member of the National Academies, which includes the NAE, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the Institute of Medicine (IOM), and the National Research Council (NRC)—which serves as the principal operating arm of the academies. The mission of the National Academy of Engineering is to advance the well-being of the nation by promoting a vibrant engineering profession and by marshaling the expertise and insights of eminent engineers to provide independent advice to the federal government on matters involving engineering and technology.



    American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
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    Phone: 703.264.7558 Fax: 703.264.7551