SETI bioastro: Fw: NASA Twins Plan Martian Ramble

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Date: Fri Dec 13 2002 - 10:12:35 PST

----- Original Message -----
From: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Sent: Monday, December 09, 2002 11:51 AM
Subject: NASA Twins Plan Martian Ramble

Donald Savage
Headquarters, Washington Dec. 9, 2002
(Phone: 202/358-1727)

Mary Hardin
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
(Phone: 818/354-0344)

RELEASE: 02-240


     NASA's Mars Rover science team will preview mission
goals and potential landing sites at a special session of the
American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. NASA's
unique twin Mars Exploration Rovers will head for the
mysterious Red Planet in just over one year.

"The twin rovers will be able to travel the distance of
several football fields during their missions. They will
carry sophisticated instruments that effectively make them
robotic geologists, acting as the eyes and hands of the
science team on Earth," said Dr. Mark Adler, mission manager
at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif.
"We are very busy at JPL building and testing the two rovers
and the spacecraft that will land them safely on Mars," he

Remote sensing instruments will be mounted on a rover mast
including high-resolution color stereo panoramic cameras and
an infrared spectrometer for determining the mineralogy of
rocks and soils. When interesting scientific targets are
identified, the rovers will drive over to them and perform
detailed investigations with instruments mounted on their
robotic arms.

Rover instruments include a microscopic imager, to see
micron-size particles and textures; an alpha-particle/x-ray
spectrometer, for measuring elemental composition; and a
Moessbauer spectrometer for determining the mineralogy of
iron bearing rocks. Each rover will carry a rock abrasion
tool, the equivalent of a geologist's rock hammer, to remove
the weathered surfaces from rocks and analyze their interior.

"All the instruments on the payload are undergoing intensive
calibration and test activities in preparation for flight,"
said Dr. Steve Squyres, principal investigator for the
science payload at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.

"Once at Mars, the instruments will be used, together with
the rover's ability to traverse long distances, to study the
geologic history of the two landing sites. The scientific
focus of the investigation is study of each site's past
climate and water and biological activity," Squyres

NASA scientists are in the process of picking the landing
site for each rover. Four sites look the most promising.
"Three of the sites, Terra Meridiani, known as the Hematite
site, Gusev, and Isidis show evidence for surface processes
involving water. These sites appear capable of addressing the
science objectives of the rover missions: to determine if
water was present on Mars and whether there are conditions
favorable to the preservation of evidence for ancient life,"
said Dr. Matt Golombek, landing site scientist at JPL. The
fourth site, Elysium, appears to contain ancient terrain,
which may hold clues to Mars' early climate when conditions
may have been wetter.

The launch period for the first rover opens May 30, 2003, and
the second rover's launch period opens June 25, 2003. The
first rover will reach Mars January 4, 2004, and the second
arrives January 25, 2004. Each rover will have a primary
mission lasting at least three months on the Martian surface.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the Mars Exploration
Rover mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington.
JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology,

More information about the mission is on the Internet at:

A NASA video file, with animation of the rovers and b-roll
showing the rover assembly and tests at JPL, will be
broadcast on NASA TV at 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. EST
Monday, Dec. 9. NASA TV is broadcast on GE-2, transponder 9C,
C-Band, located at 85 degrees West longitude. The frequency
is 3880.0 MHz. Polarization is vertical and audio is monaural
at 6.8 MHz.

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