More than 13 years after landing on Mars, Opportunity is still knocking around the Red Planet, relaying images back to Earth that have captured imaginations worldwide.
This Saturday at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge, people will have the opportunity to meet one of the NASA engineers responsible for the remarkable longevity of the Mars Exploration Rovers — aka MERs. One two rovers successfully deployed to Mars in 2004, Opportunity along with its twin, Spirit, each far outlived their 90-day planned lifespan.
While Spirit didn't go silent until 2010, Opportunity remains operational to this day. According to NASA's latest update, it last recorded driving 42 feet to the west on March 2 as it exits the Endeavour Crater.
That stands a personal triumph for Kobie Boykins, a mechanical engineer who helped design and build the solar arrays that enabled the rovers to keep going and who will be appearing Saturday in Breckenridge as the second installment of the three-part National Geographic Live series.
First up in the series that seeks to showcase the world through the eyes of great explorers, filmmakers and photographers was Joel Sartore, whose photographic work has contributed to what's likely the most complete collection of animal portraits ever taken.
Now it's Boykins turn, and in addition to the earlier Mars mission, he is also intimately involved with NASA's latest venture to the Red Planet as supervisor of the mobility and remote sensing mast teams for the Mars Science Laboratory, better known as Curiosity.
Landing on Mars in August 2012, Curiosity has already made headlines by finding evidence that conditions existed on Mars — including the presence of water — that once could have supported life. More recently, it proved that dust devils or whirlwinds are not exclusive to the third rock from the Sun.
For his work on this and other projects, Boykins last year received a NASA Exceptional Service Medal, one of the highest honors NASA employees and contractors can earn.
In his presentations, Boykins is enthusiastic and he moves quickly, covering the technical aspects of a space mission as only an engineer could, while adding a personal, infectious love for unraveling the mysteries of the universe. In addition doing lectures nationally and internationally for the National Geographic Live series, Boykins has also served as a featured speaker to students across the U.S. regarding careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
Tickets range from $25-$35 for adults while children and students are $10. For more info or to buy tickets, go to BreckCreate.org.
Mountaineer Hilaree O'Neill will be the final featured speaker in the National Geographic Live series. She is scheduled to speak April 15, also at the Riverwalk Center.