Explore Mars with JPL engineer Kobie Boykins

Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory. Courtesy NASA-JPL-Caltech
Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory. Courtesy NASA-JPL-Caltech

From imagining going boldly where no one has gone before, to sending rovers there in real life, Kobie Boykins turned a childhood dream into a prolific career “Exploring Mars.”

A dynamic young engineer at NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Boykins is on the front line of Mars exploration. He designed the solar arrays that power the Mars exploration rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Most recently, Boykins was responsible for the design of actuators on Curiosity. And, Boykins’ 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.

Now, Boykins is sharing his stories about rovers on the red planet and the future of exploration in his National Geographic Live talk “Exploring Mars,” this week in New York. For those who can’t make it to the Big Apple, Boykins answered some questions about his inspirations, life and work as an engineer.

What inspired you to dedicate your career to Space exploration?

I always had a knack for doing things like engineering. I took things apart. My mother claims that there was never a remote control that had a back in the house … Then, I became a Star Trek fan — Star Trek, Star Wars, both of them. But, I started to identify with Lieutenant Commander Geordi Laforge from Star Trek, LeVar Burton … Who I had a [connection] with as a kid as the host of Reading Rainbow. He had a great job. For me, it was like, “Here’s the guy that people ask to fix things.” And that’s what I want to do. I want to be the guy that fixes things. I could be an engineer, and wouldn’t it be cool if I could build space crafts to explore the solar system?

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