by Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
139th Airlift Wing
11/7/2012 - ST. JOSEPH, MO. -- The
phase lead and development manager for the Entry Decent and Landing on
the Mars Science Laboratory Project met with Air Mobility experts from
across the Air Force here recently.
Dr. Adam Steltzner is among the top NASA engineers in the nation, and he
was invited to the 139th Airlift Wing, Missouri Air National Guard
Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Center (AATTC) on Rosecrans Air
National Guard Base to speak about airdrop missions during their annual
Mobility Air Force Tactics Review Board.
His knowledge and accomplishments in airdrop is renowned. In August, he
headed the team that successfully landed the Curiosity Rover on Mars.
Although worlds apart, Air Mobility officials believe that problem
solving with NASA may help improve their airdrop missions on Earth, and
"We were invited to come out and speak with the airdrop guys about our
precision airdrop ... a little bit different, a different planet, but it
has some opportunities," said Steltzner.
More than 100 active duty, Guard and Reserve Command members from the
mobility air force community attended the conference. Officials said
they represented all the tactics professionals and air mobility experts
across all mobility aircraft platforms including the airdrop mission
Improving Air Force aerial delivery procedures and equipment was their
goal, said Col. Edward Black, commander of the AATTC. "Sharing
information with other government agencies is one avenue to ensure
airdrop missions are as accurate and cost effective as possible," he
"We are hoping to gather some of their information and be able to share
some stories, share some handshakes and maybe learn a little something
from the big brains at the jet propulsion laboratory," said Black.
In air mobility, it's not just delivering military personnel and cargo
that helps secure the nation's interests; it's delivering it to the
right forces in the right spot at the right time. And that's not so easy
in combat areas where pinpoint accuracy and safety of personnel is of
Steltzner explained that his NASA team and the Air Force share similar
problems, even millions of miles away, like uncertainty in weather and
"Your problems are fascinating, and I am really interested in them, and
evidently some of the guys are really interested in the landings on
Mars," said Steltzner.
People on earth were enwrapped with Curiosity's highly complex landing,
said Dr. Don Erbschloe, chief scientist for Air Mobility Command at
Scott Air Force Base.
"I watched that and thought, 'that's precision airdrop, that's what we do,'" said Erbschloe who also attended the conference.
Speaking with the scientists and engineers just made sense, he said.
"I am thrilled by the fact that they were able to join us and sit down
and talk with the guys who do this on a daily basis," said Erbschloe.
"We want to improve airdrop, whether it's on the surface of the earth or
the surface of another planet."
Steltzner learned about the latest Air Force airdrop tactic on earth:
Low Cost, Low Altitude (LCLA) aerial delivery. That tactic doubles the
amount of cargo that can be airdropped with the highest accuracy rate to
date, all-the-while reducing the risk and burden on ground forces.
The signature "trash bag" black parachutes of LCLA is another benefit -
they are disposable and cheap, as the chutes are 25 percent the cost of a
reusable chute. Their one time use also reduces the burden of carrying
used chutes for ground troops.
Lt. Col. Christopher Parker, the Air Mobility Command detachment
commander here, said the Center's development division pioneered this
and many other tactics.
Parker said the NASA team is a valuable addition to the countless
relationships made here that advance air mobility worldwide, and now
maybe on other planets.
"We're proud to say the partnerships that are represented here at the
Center have made LCLA and many other concepts a reality as we continue
to evolve procedures that allow warfighters to prevail," said Parker.