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PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE - To MARS with MER
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 Rolls All Six Wheels onto Martian Soil
January 15, 2004
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit successfully drove off its lander platform and onto the soil of Mars early today.
The robot's first picture looking back at the now-empty lander and showing wheel tracks in the soil set off cheers from the robot's flight team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell University
"Spirit is now ready to start its mission of exploration and discovery. We have six wheels in the dirt," said JPL Director Dr. Charles Elachi.
Since Spirit landed inside Mars' Gusev Crater on Jan. 3 (PST and EST; Jan. 4 Universal Time), JPL engineers have put it through a careful sequence of unfolding, standing up, checking its surroundings and other steps leading up to today's drive-off.
"It has taken an incredible effort by an incredible group of people," said Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager Peter Theisinger of JPL.
The drive moved Spirit 3 meters (10 feet) in 78 seconds, ending with the back of the rover about 80 centimeters (2.6 feet) away from the foot of the egress ramp, said JPL's Joel Krajewski, leader of the team that developed the sequence of events from landing to drive- off. The flight time sent the command for the drive-off at 12:21 a.m. PST today and received data confirming the event at 1:53 a.m. PST. The data showed that the rover completed the drive-off at 08:41 Universal Time (12:41 a.m. PST).
"There was a great sigh of relief from me," said JPL's Kevin Burke, lead mechanical engineer for the drive-off. "We are now on the surface of Mars."
With the rover on the ground, an international team of scientists assembled at JPL will be making daily decisions about how to use the rover for examining rocks, soils and atmosphere with a suite of scientific instruments onboard.
"Now, we are the mission that we all envisioned three-and-a-half years ago, and that's tremendously exciting," said JPL's Jennifer Trosper, mission manager.
JPL engineer Chris Lewicki, flight director, said "It's as if we get to drive a nice sports car, but in the end we're just the valets who bring it around to the front and give the keys to the science team."
Spirit was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on June 10, 2003. Now that it is on Mars, its task is to spend the rest of its mission exploring for clues in rocks and soil about whether the past environment in Gusev Crater was ever watery and suitable to sustain life. Spirit's twin Mars Exploration Rover, 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.
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.