Marietta High School graduate is a part of NASA’s Mars rover team

Published: Feb. 19, 2021 at 11:10 PM EST
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - The Mars rover landing may seem out of this world but it has roots close to home.

Kristo Kriechbaum is an engineer at NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory. He helped design the robot arm and drill that collects samples from Mars. He was also a 1995 Marietta High School graduate and is now making history.

“This is really the first part of these, you know, sequence of missions to get these samples back to Earth so that we can really do the detailed testing that we want to do to figure out, you know, if there was once life on Mars in any capacity, ” Kriechbaum said.

He still remembers being a teenager, looking at the TV in awe when the Mars Pathfinder landed. It was when he decided he wanted to work at NASA.

“...,this tiny little arm that could just barely touch little rocks and to me, you know, I was still a teenager then, I just thought that was so...that just blew my mind that there’s this little robot that we’re driving around on some other planet touching these, you know, rocks that are, again, on this other planet.”

Over 20 years later and he was glued to the screen, this time watching his creation land on Mars.

Not everyone could get together because of Covid but the team made it work.

Kriechbaum recalled, “We had this big group Zoom and we were all logged in and were cheering and you know, just reminiscing about the many years we spent getting this to Mars.”

Beyond the euphoria, Kriechbaum felt relief.

“We’re super excited that it’s there but there’s also a sense of relief because, you know, it’s never a sure thing - you know, we’re sending this thing hundreds of thousands of miles and it’s got to do that landing all on its own. No human input.”

Kriechbaum is ready to embark on this next chapter of human knowledge. It’s his favorite part about working at NASA.

He said, “I feel like I’m contributing to the knowledge of humanity - um hope that doesn’t sound too cheesy but, you know, it’s like we’re expanding our knowledge of not only the Earth but everything around us.”

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