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To MARS with MER - Interact

Cruising Between the Planets

Live Thursday, April 24, 1997, 13:00-14:00 Eastern
from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
(Pathfinder Control)

Cruising Between the Planets airs just days after one of Mars Global Surveyor's Trajectory Correction Maneuvers, designed to keep it on track to the Red Planet. We'll hear updates on both spacecraft and consider what it takes-in human as well as engineering terms--to keep them on course.

Paralleling the Journals and Biographies to be found on-line, we'll get "up close and personal" with the men and women who fly the missions and design the scientific experiments. We'll see the excitement, long hours and hard work, and hear what keeps them-and their spacecraft-pumping. We'll provide more information on the scientific objectives of both missions and also on the high-tech careers which are involved.

JPL is NASA's main center for planetary exploration and the use of robotics to explore our solar system. Mars Pathfinder and its Sojourner rover were built and tested here. We'll look in detail at what Sojourner is designed to do, and use a "spare" to show how it will test new robotic technologies for future, larger roving vehicles.

Pathfinder scientists will show us the Mars terrain they've built as a testbed for the lander and rover. They will use this to simulate navigation around the Mars landing site and to deal with any mechanical and engineering problems.

We'll report on MarsWatch '97, a national and international effort to monitor conditions on Mars with terrestrial telescopes. Dust storms and other climatic conditions affect the atmosphere through which both Pathfinder and Surveyor will have to travel in the final stages of their journey. NASA needs to know how warm or cold or relatively "thicker" or "thinner" the atmosphere has become in order to make final slight adjustments to the entry and descent sequences. During Spring '97, students will be encouraged to work with local amateur or professional astronomers, and we'll see what they've been up to, on-line and in taped reports.

A taped report will show students engaged in building "Rovers from Junk" (see Activity 2.3 p. 36). We'll see further applications of Newton's laws in student-designed balloon and rubber-band rovers, as well as in the real trajectories taking Surveyor and Pathfinder to Mars.

Questions will come in to the JPL scientists via email and tape from schools across the country. We'll see how the Internet also provides a way to operate model rovers remotely, with participants in different regions and even different countries controlling rovers on model Mars terrains thousands of miles away. We'll see how this hands-on activity parallels the work of NASA's own mission team.

For more on National Science and Technology Week, see: