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PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE - To MARS with MER
Spirit Continues to Send Back Amazing New Images From Mars
Spirit rover now safely on the actual surface of Mars!
This just in, as of 06:00 Eastern, Thursday January 15, the Spirit rover has egressed and now has "6 wheels on soil." What all the presenters at NASA JPL's (very) early morning press conference emphasized was the large team of people it has taken to get right down to the surface of Mars, traversing that last 40 cms from the lander to the rust-red dirt. At last they're able to say they've truly landed. "Passion" and "daring", says Joel Krajewski, took them through 12 days of "hard labor" of ITE, "Impact to Egress." Stay tuned for new pictures, and the first scientific data from the instruments on the robotic arm which can now reach out and begin to assay the rocks and soil. It's been a tremendous effort, in an incredibly compressed schedule, but now -- as Joel just said -- there's "life" on Mars, at least in the form of the hopes and dreams and hard work of the Mars Exploration Rover team. Congratulations to all of them, from P2K, and thanks for sharing your stories with the "TO MARS WITH MER" team.
P2K is also busy: our live and interactive FIRST LOOK TV special debuts Saturday January 17, from 3-4 p.m. Eastern. Depending on mission requirements, viewers will see and hear Steve Squyres and others live from JPL, interacting with youngsters and families at a Mars Festival at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, commenting on the very latest images and information direct from Mars. (Click here for full details and satellite coordinates.)
This section of the site links you directly to the latest official information from NASA JPL, and to behind-the-scenes journals from several participants in the mission, hosted by Cornell University, The Planetary Society, and others.
The Mars Exploration Rover mission will be adding new pictures, data and stories each and every day: at times this and other websites may be a day or two behind breaking news, but the links to right and under should take you to the very latest information from NASA and its partners. Onwards and Upwards in the exploration of Mars!
Spirit Ready to Drive Onto Mars Surface
January 14, 2004
NASA's Spirit completed a three-stage turn early today, the last step before a drive planned early Thursday to take the rover off its lander platform and onto martian soil for the first time.
"We are very excited about where we are today. We've just completed the exploration of our lander and we're ready to explore Mars," said Kevin Burke of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., leader of the engineering team that planned the rover's egress from the lander. "We are headed in a north-northwest direction. That is our exit path, and we're sitting just where we want to be."
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell University
Late tonight, mission managers at JPL plan to send the command for Spirit to drive forward 3 meters (10 feet), enough to get all six wheels onto the soil.
After the move, one of the rover's first jobs will be to locate the Sun with its panoramic camera and calculate from the Sun's position how to point its main antenna at Earth, JPL's Jennifer Trosper, mission manager, explained.
On Friday, Spirit's science team will take advantage of special possibilities presented by the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter flying almost directly overhead, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) high. Mars Express successfully entered orbit around Mars last month. Spirit will be looking up while Mars Express uses three instruments to look down.
"This is an historic opportunity," said Dr. Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis, deputy principal investigator for the science instruments on Spirit and on its twin Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity. "The intent is to get observations from above and to get observations from below at the same time to do the best possible job of determining the dynamics of the atmosphere." The Mars Express observations are also expected to supplement earlier information from two NASA Mars orbiters about the surface minerals and landforms in Spirit's neighborhood within Gusev Crater.
Mars Express will be looking down with a high-resolution stereo camera, a spectrometer for identifying minerals in infrared and visible wavelengths, and another spectrometer for studying atmospheric circulation and composition. Spirit will be looking up with its panoramic camera and its infrared spectrometer.
Dr. Michael Smith of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., reported how Spirit's miniature thermal emission spectrometer can be used to assess the temperatures in Mars' atmosphere from near the planet's surface to several kilometers or miles high. Spirit's measurements are most sensitive for the lower portion of the atmosphere, while Mars Express' measurements will be most sensitive for the upper atmosphere, he said.
Spirit arrived at Mars Jan. 3 (EST and PST; Jan. 4 Universal Time) after a seven-month journey. In coming weeks and months, according to plans, it will be exploring for clues in rocks and soil to decipher whether the past environment in Gusev Crater was ever watery and possibly suitable to sustain life.
Opportunity will reach Mars on Jan. 25 (EST and Universal Time; 9:05 p.m., Jan. 24, PST) to begin a similar examination of a site on the opposite side of the planet from Gusev Crater. As of Thursday morning, Opportunity will have flown 438 million kilometers (272 million miles) since launch and will still have 18 million kilometers (11 million miles) to go before landing.
JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover project for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. Images and additional information about the project are available from JPL at http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov and from Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., at http://athena.cornell.edu .