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Rob Manning
Entry, Descent and Landing Operations Manager
Mars Exploration Rovers mission
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

P2K: Is the Mars Exploration Rovers mission shaping up to be as much fun as "Pathfinder"?

Rob Manning: The Mars Exploration Rovers mission is I think a much bigger challenge than Mars Pathfinder was, mostly because of the need to get it right. Not fail, for us to work very, very hard to make sure there is nothing that could lower the viability of mission success. As a result, there is more tedium... there is much more penetration, more peeling back the layers of the onion to see what is really there. That takes more work, it takes more people, and as a result it makes it more difficult to manage. There's a lot more things that have to be done, more relationships between individuals, and so in that sense, it's less fun. But, you know what, we're going to Mars! We are doing what no human beings ever get a chance to do in their lifetime. This is so exciting: as soon as you step back and look at the big picture of what we are trying to achieve: to get a vehicle on Mars to last for 90 or more Mars days, to go out over the hill, to drive off, to look at that rock over the horizon, to be able to drive and come up to a rock and scratch away and drill into it and actually look at the mineralogy - that's never been done in human history! It's not clear that it's been done in this quadrant of our Milky Way! This is an incredibly exciting thing, and as long as we keep thinking about that, it is fun, and it will be fun for the whole duration.

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