Flight director for NASA Mars program to speak at CSUSB

     
Keith Comeaux

Keith Comeaux

Keith Comeaux, leader of the team of NASA scientists who oversaw the rover robot probe that landed on Mars to determine if the red planet was ever inhabited by microbes, will be the featured speaker at the Gerald M. Scherba Lecture Series at Cal State San Bernardino on Wednesday, Oct. 16.

In “Landing Curiosity,” Comeaux will talk about NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration on Mars. The probe, called “Curiosity,” was designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. In other words, its mission is to determine the planet’s “habitability.”

The Gerald M. Scherba Lecture Series is presented by Cal State San Bernardino’s College of Natural Sciences and co-sponsored with the CSUSB Department of Mathematics. The public is invited to the free lecture, which will be at 7 p.m. in the university’s Santos Manuel Student Union Theater. Parking is $5.

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Comeaux joined NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 2006 to lead Curiosity’s entry, descent and landing validation effort. In 2008, he transitioned to the assembly, integration and test team as the deputy system’s manager and was responsible for leading the Curiosity’s system test activities during its two-year construction through launch at Cape Canaveral in November 2011.

Following the launch, Comeaux served as the cruise engineering operations team chief. He led the engineering team responsible for operating Curiosity during its eight-and-a-half-month cruise to Mars, culminating with its landing on the night of Aug. 5, 2012, with Comeaux serving as flight director.

After the probe’s landing, Comeaux served as one of several tactical mission managers responsible for the initial commissioning and safe operation of Curiosity as it began its journey of discovery on the Martian surface.

The Gerald M. Scherba Endowed Program Lecture Series at CSUSB offers the public a clear understanding of the natural sciences and what they contribute to the world.

The science speaker series is named after Cal State San Bernardino founding faculty member Gerald Scherba, the first science professor hired in 1962 by then-San Bernardino-Riverside State College founding president, John M. Pfau. The college opened in 1965.

Scherba first served as chair for the Natural Sciences Division. In 1968, he became the first dean of academic affairs at Cal State San Bernardino. In 1984, he was named director for the California State University Field Station for Research and Education in Zyzzx, Calif. He retired in 1994 and passed away in 2001.

For more information on the Gerald M. Scherba Endowed Lecture Series, contact Peter Williams at (909) 537-5361.

For more information about Cal State San Bernardino, contact the university’s Office of Public Affairs at (909) 537-5007 and visit news.csusb.edu.