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Keynote Address: The Right Kind of Crazy: A True Story of Teamwork, Leadership and High Stakes Innovation

Thursday, November 17 | 12:15 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Adam Steltzner, Team Leader & Chief Engineer EDL, NASA Mars Rover Curiosity, Author

With a rich and varied background, Adam Steltzner had many of the needed skills to lead the landing team for the Curiosity rover. Yet they would struggle for almost a decade with design challenges and setbacks. How did he keep the group focused and on task? What makes a team gel and enables truly innovative thinking? How does team dynamics drive that process forward or inhibit it? And how can organizational culture create an environment for sustained performance?

Join Steltzner as he shares obstacles he and his team faced, lessons learned from those struggles, and how these lessons can be applied to create and lead high-performing teams, manage innovation, and drive toward excellence — based on his book, The Right Kind of Crazy: A True Story of Teamwork, Leadership and High Stakes Innovation.

A Message from Adam Steltzner


About Adam Steltzner...

It took more than some of the world's most-gifted rocket scientists to get the rover Curiosity safely onto the surface of Mars in 2012. It's what award-winning scientist Dr. Adam Steltzner calls "The Right Kind of Crazy."

For 10 years Dr. Steltzner led a team of engineers inventing, designing, testing, and retesting the revolutionary “sky crane” landing system that successfully placed the Mars rover Curiosity on the Martian surface in 2012. Five times heavier than its predecessors, Curiosity required an entirely new landing system for the perilous 7-minute phase when the one-ton rover—entering the Martian atmosphere at 13,000 mph—must safely come to rest on the surface. Since then, he's been awarded honors ranging from the Smithsonian's American Ingenuity Award in technology to GQ magazine's Spaceman of the Year.

Where it All Started...

At age 20, Steltzner was an aspiring rock star on his way home from a gig when he noticed that the constellation Orion had shifted from where it was hours before. That was all it took to spark his curiosity and desire to know everything about the laws that govern the universe, leading him to return to school and earn a PhD. By age 35, he was an engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratories.

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