NASA engineer will share enthusiasm for space exploration

(01-24-2013)

Almost exactly nine years ago, NASA's two unmanned rovers – "Spirit" and "Opportunity" – successfully landed on Mars and began their 90-day scientific exploration and discovery missions. Amazingly, the performance of both solar-powered rovers far exceeded their design specifications, and the hopes of NASA personnel. Spirit operated for more than six years before losing contact with Earth and Opportunity continues to explore the Martian surface today.

As part of the 2011 $3.6 million grant awarded to the Adams State University STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs, dynamic and nationally-recognized speakers will be brought to Adams State to talk about space research, the science of space, and STEM careers focused on the universe beyond Earth.

On February 7, Kobie Boykins, a mechanical engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will visit Adams State and give two free public lectures about his experiences working on the Mars Rover projects. Department chair, Dr. Matt Nehring, said "Boykins' youth and energy will appeal to students and adults."

Boykins designed and helped build the celebrated solar arrays that powered Spirit and Opportunity. He was also part of the team who designed and developed NASA's "Curiosity" (named by a 6th grader) – a next-generation rover and Mars Science Laboratory that safely landed on the Martian surface in August, 2012. Curiosity is the largest and most sophisticated unmanned rover ever sent to another planet and as part of its mission will assess the planet's ability to support microbial life. Other projects have included work on the Mars Pathfinder mission and the Ocean Surface Topography Mission, making measurements by satellite of the Earth's oceans. In 2002, Boykins joined a team of young scientists for a public education tour—dubbed "Marsapalooza"—to raise awareness of the Mars Exploration Program. Four years later he was featured in the JASON Project Expedition "Mysteries of Earth and Mars," bringing his passion for space exploration to students and teachers worldwide.

An engaging public speaker who puts a fresh face on America's space program, Boykins recounts the challenges and triumphs of the Mars Exploration Rovers mission, sharing remarkable images and discoveries that continue to come to us from the Red Planet. In a recent interview Boykins said: "I honestly feel that we will have a person standing on the surface of Mars at some point in time, because there is something that is innate in human beings…that need to explore."

The lectures by Boykins will be held Thursday, February 7 on the Adams State University campus. At noon he will give a presentation as part of the ongoing series of Lunchtime Talks in Science and Mathematics in Porter Hall room 130. At 7 p.m. in Carson Auditorium (Student Union Building) Kobie will give another free public lecture on the Mars Rover Missions. K-12 students, community members, and everyone interested in space exploration are encouraged to attend. Permits are not required for parking in Adams State lots after 5 p.m.

A dynamic young engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Boykins' enthusiasm for space exploration, and Mars in particular, is infectious. Join him for his engaging presentations exploring the Red Planet—with an update on the very latest chapter in the ongoing story of Mars exploration.

For more information call Nehring at 719-587-7504.