Todd Barber: “Red Rover, Red Rover: Send Curiosity Right Over”

Abstract: “Red Rover, Red Rover: Send Curiosity Right Over”

Curiosity’s mission to the red planet will be covered in detail. Topics to be discussed include a bit on the history of Mars rovers at JPL, the scientific motivation for Curiosity, and the preparations for launch two days after Thanksgiving in 2011. The science suite on board this one-ton mega rover will be presented, as well as the engineering challenges involved in getting Curiosity to the launch pad, traveling 352 million miles to Mars over 8.5 months, and ‘sticking the landing’ following the so-called ‘seven minutes of terror’ on August 5th, 2012. Early mission science results will be presented as well, followed by pop-culture reaction to the rover landing.


Todd Barber is a JPL senior propulsion engineer, now working as lead propulsion engineer on the Cassini mission to Saturn following part-time work on the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission, Deep Impact mission, and the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, which landed the large rover Curiosity on the red planet on August 5th, 2012. Cassini was launched on October 15, 1997 on its two-billion-mile, seven-year journey to the ringed planet. The MER team launched launch twin rovers to the red planet in June and July of 2003, and Opportunity is still going strong over nine years after landing. Todd also worked as the lead impactor propulsion engineer on Deep Impact, which successfully crashed into Comet Tempel-1 on Independence Day, 2005, at twenty-three-thousand miles per hour.

Mr. Barber worked on the Galileo project for over seven years and his primary responsibility was getting Galileo into Jupiter orbit on December 7, 1995. Todd also worked part-time on the Space Infra-Red Telescope Facility (SIRTF) mission and on the Stardust mission, as well as the Mars Sample Return mission and a Mars airplane study. Todd received NASA’s Exceptional Achievement Award in 1996 for his work on Galileo. He also worked three years on the Deep Space One mission, the first NASA mission to use electric propulsion (a la “Star Trek”). This mission included flybys of a near-Earth asteroid, Braille, and a comet named Borrelly.

Mr. Barber is a native of Wichita, Kansas, and attended MIT between 1984 and 1990, obtaining B.S. and M.S. degrees in aerospace engineering, with a humanities concentration in music. He is also a composer of church choral music, with two pieces published to date. His hobbies include singing charitably and professionally, playing the piano, visiting all the U.S. tri-state corners and national parks, playing basketball (though it’s been a while), and amateur astronomy.


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