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Exploring Mars with NASA Engineer Kobie Boykins

10:29 AM, Jan 23, 2014   |    comments
NASA engineer Kobie Boykins helped design the solar arrays that power the Mars exploration rover Opportunity, which was supposed to last just 90 days. Instead, Opportunity has successfully transmitted data from Mars since deployment in January 2004. (Boykins Photo Courtesy: National Geographic Live!)
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(Harbison Theatre) - Considering this month's breakthrough discovery of ancient lakes on Mars, the timing couldn't be better for Kobie Boykins to touch down in the Midlands. National Geographic Live brings this engaging, talented NASA engineer to Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College for a lively, engaging presentation on Jan. 23, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. It will be Boykins' first appearance ever in the Midlands.

Kobie Boykins is a phenomenal storyteller who makes rocket science cool. This charismatic young pioneer will make it easy for audiences of all interest levels to understand what's happening in Mars exploration and how it affects our world.

This is science for everyone.

Boykins obviously delights in telling fun, light-hearted stories about his work as a mechanical engineer in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

He shares his passion for exploring the Red Planet and offer anecdotes about designing and deploying the robotic Mars rovers that are making headlines all over the globe.

"This is new programming for Harbison Theatre," says Director of Theatre Operations Katie Fox. "As part of Midlands Technical College, education is at the core of all that we do.  Welcoming the brilliant and funny Kobie Boykins for a discussion of Mars exploration helps us contribute to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) education and to the general scholarly discussion in our community."

Just in the last month, Mars rovers designed in part by Boykins have found evidence of ancient lakes on the Red Planet.

On December 9, 2013, Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post reported, "Scientists have known that the young Mars was more Earthlike than the desert planet we see today, but this is the best evidence yet that Mars had swimming holes that stuck around for thousands or perhaps millions of years. (It would have been very chilly - bring a wet suit.)"

What does this mean for us on earth? Could life on Mars become a reality?

Boykins helped design the solar arrays that power the Mars exploration rover Opportunity, which was supposed to last just 90 days. Instead, Opportunity has successfully transmitted data from Mars since deployment in January 2004.

Boykins also designed the actuators (tiny motors that move the wheels, robotic arms, etc.) on Curiosity, the car-sized, roving science lab that has been identifying minerals on Mars since 2012.

The Midlands region has deep ties to the space program. The McNAIR Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research was founded recently at the University of South Carolina, in honor of Lake City, SC native Ronald McNair, one of the astronauts killed in the Challenger shuttle tragedy of 1986. Columbia native Charles Bolden, a former astronaut, has been NASA's Administrator since 2009.

"I love listening to anyone talk about something they love, and Kobie Boykins loves space exploration," Fox says. "His enthusiasm for the hard work it entails and the imagination it requires is contagious, and I think we'll inspire some potential explorers!"

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