UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi: The Mars mission – Curiosity equals inspiration

COSMOS Program at UC Davis

Students in the Introduction to Engineering Mechanics cluster pose as part of the 2012 COSMOS program.

It’s been about a week since we watched in awe as the Mars rover Curiosity touched down on the Red Planet. UC Davis alumnus Adam Steltzner ’90 led design and development of the Entry, Descent and Landing system for the rover. And for the past few days, UC Davis geology professor Dawn Sumner, who is a co-investigator for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory team, has been at the mission’s base in Pasadena actively documenting the experience on her blog.

As many of you know, I was inspired to become an electrical engineer after watching as the engineers at mission control in Houston helped guide Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon in 1969. I remember being captivated by all that I saw and thinking that the science and technology they had to master for such a complex and precise mission truly has the power to change the world. This is also true of the people who are working tirelessly on the Mars rover mission.

Last week, I spoke to a group of young students who were on our campus as part of the California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS) program. They asked me when I found out that I wanted to become an electrical engineer and what made me want that. I shared my story with them and also spoke about the importance of pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). It was moving to see so many young men and women so passionate about STEM. I hope these students and many other young people were as inspired to see the Curiosity landing as I was to see all the activity and excitement at Mission Control 43 years ago this summer.

UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi

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