Twin Rovers Headed for Mars
NASA today announced plans to launch two large scientific
rovers to the red planet in 2003.
August 10, 2000
-- The traffic on Mars is expected to double in the near future.
NASA today announced plans to
launch two large scientific rovers to the red planet in 2003,
rather than the original plan for just one, said Dr. Ed Weiler,
Associate Administrator for Space Science, NASA Headquarters,
Both Mars rovers, to be built, managed and operated by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., currently are planned for launch on Delta II rockets from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The first mission is targeted for May 22, with the second launch slated for June 4. After a seven-and-a- half month cruise, the first rover should enter Mars' atmosphere January 2, 2004, with the second rover bouncing to a stop on the Martian surface January 20.
Above: This image is a single frame from a striking
video of the planned Mars 2003 rover mission. [more
information from NASA headquarters]
The rovers will be exact duplicates, but that's where the similarities end. Relatives of the highly successful 1997 Sojourner rover, these 150-kilogram (300-pound) mobile laboratories may look and act alike, but they're going to decidedly different locations.
Scott Hubbard, Mars program director at NASA Headquarters said, "For the past few weeks NASA has been undertaking an extensive study of a two-lander option. Hubbard added, "The scientific appeal of using the excellent launch opportunity in 2003 for two missions was weighed carefully against the resource requirements and schedule constraints."
"Our teams concluded that we can successfully develop
and launch these identical packages to the red planet,"
continued Hubbard. "We also determined that, in addition
to the prospect of doubling our scientific return, this two-pronged
approach adds resiliency and robustness to our exploration program."
"Mars is a beguiling place, and conducting a real mobile field-geology mission is always better when there are multiple perspectives," said Dr. Jim Garvin, Mars program scientist at NASA Headquarters. However, the landing sites have yet to be selected. "We are thinking about localities where there is evidence of surface processes involving what we might call 'past' water on Mars," Garvin said.
"This includes sites where we have today mineralogical evidence that water may have produced unique chemical fingerprints, as well as places where it seems likely water 'ponded' in closed depressions for enough time to modify the regional geology," Garvin added.
During the next two to three years, engineers and scientists will conduct an intensive search for potential touchdown sites. Using the flood of data still coming in from Mars Global Surveyor, and that expected starting in 2002 from the Mars 2001 Orbiter, scientists will search for compelling landing zones with the fewest hazards and select the best candidates.
Above: This artist's rendering shows a view of NASA's Mars 2003 Rover as it sets off to roam the surface of the red planet. The rover is scheduled for launch in June 2003 and will arrive in January 2004, shielded in its landing by an airbag shell. The airbag/lander structure, which has no scientific instruments of its own, is shown to the right in this image, behind the rover. [more information]
"The goal of both rovers will be to learn about ancient water and climate on Mars," said Professor Steven Squyres, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., and principal investigator for the rovers' Athena science package. "You can think of each rover as a robotic field geologist, equipped to read the geologic record at its landing site and to learn what the conditions were like back when the rocks and soils there were formed."
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Given the high priority NASA and the administration assign
to the space science program overall, and to the timely exploration
of Mars, the agency proposes that space science cover any additional
costs of the first rover mission, and that the bulk of the cost
for the second lander be reallocated from programs outside Space
The Mars 2003 Rover project will be managed at JPL, for the Office of Space Science. Dr. Firouz Naderi is the Mars Program Manager at JPL, which is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
Mars Exploration Program - from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Science@NASA Stories about Mars:
to the Future on Mars
-- July 28, 2000. NASA announces plans for a Mars rover in 2003
with a second rover under consideration.
Making a Splash on Mars -- June 29, 2000. Scientists ponder how to keep water in its liquid form on super-dry and cold Mars.
Mars Surprise -- June 22, 2000. New pictures
from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft reveal gullies on
Mars, possibly created by recent flash floods
Martian Swiss Cheese -- March 9, 2000. New pictures from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft show exotic terrain made of dry ice near the Red Planet's south pole.
Unearthing Clues to Martian Fossils -- June 11, 1999. The hunt for signs of ancient life on Mars is leading scientists to an otherworldly lake on Earth.
The Red Planet in 3D -- May 27, 1999. New data from Mars Global Surveyor reveal the topography of Mars better than many continental regions on Earth.
Search for Life on Mars will Start in Siberia -- May 27, 1999. NASA funds permafrost study to support astrobiology research.
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HQ Press Release 00-124
Production Editor: Dr. Tony Phillips
Curator: Bryan Walls
Media Relations: Steve Roy
Responsible NASA official: John M. Horack