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Spirit Rolls Off the Lander

Thursday, January 15, 2004

image of spirt looking back a the lander package
Spirit Looks Back

This image from the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit's rear hazard identification camera shows the rover's hind view of the lander platform, its nest for the past 12 sols, or martian days. The rover is approximately 1 meter (3 feet) in front of the airbag-cushioned lander, facing northwest. Note the tracks left in the martian soil by the rovers' wheels, all six of which have rolled off the lander. This is the first time the rover has touched martian soil.

NASA/JPL/Cornell

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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. 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.

More: JPL - Spirit Rolls All Six Wheels onto Martian Soil

Spirit Gets A Travel Itinerary

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

NASA's Spirit has begun pivoting atop its lander platform on Mars, and the robot's human partners have announced plans to send it toward a crater, then toward some hills, during the mission. Determining exactly where the spacecraft landed, in the context of images taken from orbit, has given planners a useful map of the vicinity. After Spirit drives off its lander and examines nearby soil and rocks, the scientists and engineers managing it from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., intend to tell it to head for a crater that is about 250 meters (about 270 yards) northeast of the lander.

More: NASA - Go to that Crater and Turn Right: Spirit Gets a Travel Itinerary

Mars rover scientists smiling despite delay

Thursday, January 8, 2004

Rover looking at the sunset
Mars at an angle

This latest color "postcard from Mars," taken on Sol 5 by the panoramic camera on the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, looks to the north. The apparent slope of the horizon is due to the several-degree tilt of the lander deck. On the left, the circular topographic feature dubbed Sleepy Hollow can be seen along with dark markings that may be surface disturbances caused by the airbag-encased lander as it bounced and rolled to rest. A dust-coated airbag is prominent in the foreground, and a dune-like object that has piqued the interest of the science team with its dark, possibly armored top coating, can be seen on the right.

NASA/JPL/Cornell

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The USGS Astrogeology team working on the current Mars project says that minor problems will delay their work, but spirits are still high following the successful landing of Spirit. The rover is not expected to start exploring Gusev Crater until Wednesday, three days later than expected. The air bags used to cushion the rover's landing are blocking the primary ramp, keeping the rover from rolling off the lander. NASA is working to deflate the bags further, but if that fails, the rover can roll off the lander using one of the two other ramps.

More: Arizona Daily Sun - Flag-based USGS team still upbeat despite delay

More: Arizona Daily Sun - Rover hits air-bag snag

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Exploration Rover Project

Link: JPL - Mars Exploration Rover Mission


Mars rover scientists ready to get to work

Monday, January 5, 2004

With Spirit landing safely on Mars Saturday night the NASA and the USGS Astrogeology team of scientists at the Pasadena mission headquarters are in high spirits. In a landmark moment, the small space rover landed on the surface of the Red Planet -- beginning what scientists hope to be a time of great discovery. "Our mood couldn't be better," said Lisa Gaddis, chief scientist for the Flagstaff team. "We're now all happily settling down to (hopefully) many weeks of working on Mars."

More: Arizona Daily Sun - Flag scientists ready to work

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Exploration Rover Project

Link: JPL - Mars Exploration Rover Mission

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Pathfinder and 2003 Rover Missions

Rover Spirit sends first images

Sunday, January 4, 2004

Image from spirt, looking down at itself for an inspection
View From Above Spirit on Mars

This mosaic image taken by the navigation camera on the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit has been reprocessed to project a clear overhead view of the rover on the surface of Mars.

NASA/JPL

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A traveling robotic geologist from NASA has landed on Mars and returned stunning images of the area around its landing site in Gusev Crater. Mars Exploration Rover Spirit successfully sent a radio signal after the spacecraft had bounced and rolled for several minutes following its initial impact at 11:35 p.m. EST (8:35 p.m. Pacific Standard Time) on January 3. "This is a big night for NASA," said NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe. "We're back. I am very, very proud of this team, and we're on Mars."

More: JPL - Spirit Lands On Mars and Sends Postcards

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Exploration Rover Project

Link: JPL - Mars Exploration Rover Mission

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Pathfinder and 2003 Rover Missions

USGS Astrogeology team heads to Pasedena for Mars rover landing

Saturday, January 3, 2004

USGS Astrogeology scientists left Friday and today for California, where they will work on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover project. Spirit is scheduled to land on Mars at 9:35 p.m. Arizona time today, and four of 20 USGS members from Flagstaff who have worked on the mission will arrive at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

More: Arizona Daily Sun - Scientists hope for a soft Martian landing

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Exploration Rover Project

Link: JPL - Mars Exploration Rover Mission

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Pathfinder and 2003 Rover Missions

USGS Astrogeology team preps for Mars rover landing

Saturday, December 20, 2003

USGS Astrogeology scientists are making preparations for their rover to land in early January. Lisa Gaddis, the team chief scientist, said that she and at least three other team members will travel to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., in time for the anticipated Jan. 3 landing of the Mars Exploration Rover Project. The team members will assist with calibration of all of the MER cameras and providing software tools for analyzing images. Once the rovers are on Mars, the team will meet and work on the data and be part of the decision to move the wheeled robots around the planet. "We're testing our software right now," Gaddis said. "Most of our work has involved preparations for the microscopic imager." About 20 people on the USGS Astrogeology staff are involved in the project.

More: Arizona Daily Sun - Flag team preps for Mars landing

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Exploration Rover Project

Link: JPL - Mars Exploration Rover Mission

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Pathfinder and 2003 Rover Missions

Rover 'Opportunity' Follows 'Spirit' to Mars

Monday, July 7, 2003

NASA launched its second Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity, late Monday night aboard a Delta II launch vehicle whose bright glare briefly illuminated Florida Space Coast beaches. Opportunity's dash to Mars began with liftoff at 11:18:15 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (8:18:15 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The spacecraft separated successfully from the Delta's third stage 83 minutes later, after it had been boosted out of Earth orbit and onto a course toward Mars. Flight controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., received a signal from Opportunity at 12:43 a.m. Tuesday EDT (9:43 p.m. Monday PDT) via the Goldstone, Calif., antenna complex of NASA's Deep Space Network. All systems on the spacecraft are operating as expected, JPL's Richard Brace, Mars Exploration Rover deputy project manager, reported.

More: NASA KSC - Newly Launched 'Opportunity' Follows Mars-bound 'Spirit'

More: NASA - Where are Opportunity and Spirit Now? Track the progress of Mars Rovers' journeys to the Red Planet

Link: Cornell - Informal, weekly mission news from the Principal Investigator at Cornell University

Rover 'Spirit' Headed for Mars

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

A NASA robotic geologist named Spirit began its seven-month journey to Mars at 1:58:47 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (10:58:47 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time) June 10, 2003, when its Delta II launch vehicle thundered aloft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The spacecraft, first of a twin pair in NASA's Mars Exploration Rover project, separated successfully from the Delta's third stage about 36 minutes after launch, while over the Indian Ocean. Flight controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., received a signal from the spacecraft at 2:48 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (11:48 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time) via the Canberra, Australia, antenna complex of NASA's Deep Space Network. All systems are operating as expected.

More: NASA - NASA's 'Spirit' Rises On Its Way To Mars

More: NASA - Where is Spirit Now? Track the progress of Mars Rover Spririt's journey to the Red Planet

Link: NASA - Mars Exploration Rover Mission website

Link: NASA - Girl With Dreams Names Mars Rovers 'Spirit' and 'Opportunity'

Mars Exploration Rover MER-A Scheduled to Launch June 8

Tuesday, June 3, 2003

MER-A is planned for launch at 2:05:55 p.m. or 2:44:07 p.m. EDT, June 8, 2003 from Cape Canaveral. The mission is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the red planet. The program seeks to take advantage of each launch opportunity to go to Mars, which comes around every 26 months as the planets move around the Sun. Scheduled for two separate launches, the two rovers will be delivered in landing craft to separate sites on Mars in January 2004.

More: NASA KSC - MER Mission News

Link: NASA Direct - Web broadcasting site will feature special MER programming, including a pre-launch program

Link: NASA TV - Tune in to see the launch as it happens

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Exploration Rover Project

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Pathfinder and 2003 Rover Missions

Landing Sites Chosen for Mars Rovers

Friday, April 11, 2003

NASA has chosen two scientifically compelling landing sites for twin robotic rovers to explore on the surface of Mars early next year. The two sites are a giant crater that appears to have once held a lake, and a broad outcropping of a mineral that usually forms in the presence of liquid water. Each Mars Exploration Rover (MER) will examine its landing site for geological evidence of past liquid water activity and past environmental conditions hospitable to life. The first rover, scheduled for launch May 30, will be targeted to land at Gusev Crater, 15 degrees south of Mars' equator. The second, scheduled to launch June 25, will be targeted to land at Meridiani Planum, an area with deposits of an iron oxide mineral (gray hematite) about two degrees south of the equator and halfway around the planet from Gusev.

More: NASA - NASA Rovers Slated To Examine Two Intriging Sites On Mars

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Exploration Rover Project

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Pathfinder and 2003 Rover Missions

Name the Mars Rovers!

Wednesday, November 6, 2002

In the summer of 2003, NASA will launch two Mars Exploration Rovers that will land on the Red Planet in January 2004. NASA selected The LEGO Company and The Planetary Society to conduct a contest for students in K-12 grades throughout the United States to submit names for these rovers. Submissions must include suggested names for both rovers and a 50-500 word essay justifying why the students believe the names should be chosen. The contest has many educational benefits and encourages students to do research for their essays and to learn more about Mars and space exploration. The contest is open for submissions through January 31, 2003. NASA will announce the contest winners prior to launching the rovers in the spring of 2003.

More: Lego - Name the Rovers Contest Rules & Submission Forms

More: NASA - NASA Selects Lego Company to Run Mars Rover Naming Contest

Send Your Name to Mars

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

In 2003, NASA will launch twin Mars Rovers on a seven plus month journey to the surface of Mars. For at least 90 Martian days, the Rovers will carry instruments to help scientists study both the climate and water history of Mars in the two different landing locations. You can come along for the ride by sending NASA your name. To date, nearly 3 million of you have responded. Names will be taken until November 15th, so don't delay!

More: NASA SpaceKids - Send your name to Mars

Prepping for Mars! Rover Field Tests

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

When the two Mars Exploration Rovers arrive at the red planet in January 2004, mission scientists will rely on them to make discoveries. To prepare for intense operations during the mission, NASA's scientists and engineers work with a rover here on Earth called FIDO. Field tests with FIDO allow the team to formulate hypotheses about the geologic environment and use the rover to test them. The August 2002 tests went really well. The science team met their mission success criteria, which included going to at least two different locations (other than the landing site) and making extensive measurements, driving 200 meters (656 feet), and digging a soil trench with one of the rover's wheels...

More: JPL - FIDO Field Test

Link: Cornell MER Athena Team - FIDO Rover

NASA Selects 28 Participating Scientists for Mars Rover Mission

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

USGS Astrogeology's Jeff Johnson is among 28 scientists NASA has selected for participation in the 2003 Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Mission. The mission consists of two separate, though identical, rovers scheduled for launch in mid-2003 and arrival at separate destinations on Mars in early 2004...

More: NASA Spacelink - Mars Mission Scientists Selected

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Exploration Rover Project

Link: USGS Astro - Mars Pathfinder and 2003 Rover Missions