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Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the developer, PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE, and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Science Foundation.

To MARS with MER - RESEARCH/ers

Geoff Haines-Stiles
Project Director
PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE & the LIVE FROM... specials

"Launch of First Mars Exploration Rover"

June 10 began with fog and low clouds. Superstitiously we wondered if a sunny start guaranteed a sad ending to the day, as far as launches were concerned, and that a dull beginning might lead to success? The odds were 70% in favor of take-off today: would they hold?

The Mars Exploration Rovers team was split in several locations across the Kennedy Space Center and the Air Force base. Some, like Project Manager Pete Theisinger, sat with the Boeing and Air Force officials who'd say whether the range was "red" or "green." Others like flight system manager Richard Cook, and ATLO leader, Matt Wallace (see UPDATES #1) sat with the test team, who were monitoring the spacecraft's health. As the morning wore on, the weather continued to look good. Peanuts, a traditional snack around JPL on launch days, were nervously popped, though room was left for some burgers from the "Shuttle Grill" as they kept working through lunchtime. The radar showed clear skies, though once the range was closed for a short while because of a data relay problem. Then, more and more, the Mars Exploration Rovers team began to believe once more that today might really be launch day. Art Thompson, ATLO test conductor, polled Avionics, Electrical Systems, and all the other lead engineers. Another set of engineers were online from JPL, waiting to take over if the launch happened. Noon... one o'clock... and still things looked good. First Matt Wallace, and then Richard Cook signed off... "Flight Systems says Go for launch..." and shook hands, colleagues, veterans of years in the trenches, fighting to get the rovers to the pad.

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