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Adam Steltzner

Leader & Chief Engineer, NASA Mars 2020 Mission, Rover Perseverance
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Described as a cross between “Einstein and Elvis Costello,” Adam Steltzner is a leader heralded for making the impossible possible. And he wants to know “How great do YOU dare to become?”

An aspiring rock star turned Ph.D. rocket scientist, Adam Steltzner is praised as a cutting-edge innovator and a leader who literally brings out the very best in his teams. Adam serves has Chief Engineer of the current Mars 2020 Mission & Rover Perseverance that has ultimate objective of determining if life has existed on Mars.  

A mission ten years in the making, Mars 2020 was plunged into uncertainty at a crucial juncture by the global pandemic. Preparing a mission for Mars and not making any mistakes is immensely difficult under the best conditions. Suddenly, Steltzner and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory team of 6,000+ was forced to operate remotely. The collaborative teams pressed on and remarkably maintained all of the original assembly and launch timetables. After a 6-month journey through space, history was made on February 18th when the Rover Perseverance spectacularly landed on the Martian surface, more than 200,000,000 miles from Earth.

Adam earlier led a breakthrough team that created the ingenious “sky crane” landing system for the Rover Curiosity that landed on Mars in 2012. The achievement prompted leadership guru Simon Sinek to state, “[Steltzner] shows us that doing what others think is impossible takes more than grit and courage. It takes the ability to inspire people . . . It takes leadership.” Steltzner was also honored with the “American Ingenuity” Award from Smithsonian Institute.  

Adam is the author of The Right Kind of Crazy: A True Story of Teamwork, Leadership and High Stakes Innovation, that was named a “best leadership book of the year” by the Washington PostCEO READ picked the book as “Editor’s Choice” for its unique strategies and perspectives.

Steltzner brings a rock-star’s presence and a storyteller’s gift to the stage with his keynote speeches. Adam has mastered the art of managing complex teams and the concept of “making ideas reality.” He knows first-hand how collaborative cultures foster innovation and how team-minded engagement fuels performance. And he inspires audiences to dare greatly – to embrace the power of curiosity, creativity, and courage to do what others say is impossible.

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