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"To MARS with MER"

"To MARS with MER,"... the scientific adventure continues
The golden age of science didn't climax with Einstein's theories of space and time in 1905.

The scientific frontier did not close with Crick and Watson's description of DNA in 1953.

Design and engineering breakthroughs didn't end with the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the Moon.

Invention and discovery are ongoing. Answers to some of humanity's age-old questions about our planet and our place in the Cosmos may be just around the corner. And you are invited to follow NASA's Mars Exploration Rover project all the way to the Red Planet!

The Challenge
It's a challenge so extreme it requires every ounce of human imagination, technical skill, perseverance and daring to succeed.

Each of the twin Mars Exploration Rover spacecraft plunge into Mars' atmosphere at thousands of miles per hour. Within the next 105 seconds, more than 50 pyrotechnic devices must fire in order to control a precise sequence of events. Now the application of Newton's laws - of velocity, momentum, and kinetic energy - will make or break the mission.

A parachute deploys. Radars sense the approaching surface, and trigger retro-rockets. Eight seconds before impact, airbags inflate and, if all goes well, the landers fall the final 15 meters, bounce, and roll one last kilometer before stopping, waking up, and phoning home.

The Risks
Down on Earth in January 2004, the men and women of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover project wait anxiously to see if years of effort vanish in a chance encounter with a killer rock. They've been under the gun from the start. Mars Pathfinder, the original "Faster, Better, Cheaper" project, took 57 months from approval to launch. MER had only 33.

One rover would have been hard enough. Then NASA upped the ante by deciding it wanted twin spacecraft, to improve the odds of success: 2/3 two-thirds of all Russian and American missions to Mars have failed.

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