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To MARS with MER - RESEARCH/ers

Steve Squyres
ATHENA Science Team Principal Investigator
Cornell University, NY

P2K: The guys at Cornell, and a whole bunch of other folks at NASA, are really going out of their way to get kids involved, get strong education programs. Why do you divert attention and energy from the science, the mission, to outreach?

Steve Squyres: We're spending eight hundred million dollars on these things, of taxpayer money, and what we have on this launch pad here is an incredibly powerful tool for training future generations of explorers, roboticists, scientists, engineers, people who are going to make missions possible that will make this look like child's play. We have people on this planet now who are the next generation of explorers and we can use something like this to get them ready to do that job. And so from the level of college students down to elementary school we try to find ways to use this mission to get people interested, to get people turned on, to get people engaged in the kind of stuff that we're doing, so that ten, twenty, thirty years down the road there are going to be people who can follow after this and do better.

Image courtesy of NASA

P2K: And yet, back in New York and that taxi cab, you said, well... and Wayne Lee said something: "I don't know if I can do this again. It's fantastic and it's wonderful and it's going to do great science. I don't know if I'd do it again."

Steve Squyres: I don't know if I'd do it again. I'll tell you, if we succeed, I'll never do something like this again. It just consumes you. I mean, this has been my life for seven and a half years. My wife and daughter are right over there. I have promised them, and my older daughter, too, that if this thing gets to Mars, we get one rover on the surface for one day, Daddy's never going to be a PI again, that's it. I have put too much into this. It's a wonderful experience, this is the adventure of a lifetime. And I mean that in the most literal sense of those words. That's not hyperbole. This is the adventure of a lifetime. But it drains you, you know, you put everything into it. Everything that I have spent my professional life on for the last seven and a half years is sitting on top of that rocket. It takes a lot out of you.

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