Roving the Red Planet: Current and Future Missions

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December 10, 2002

As NASA prepares to launch two rovers to the red planet next spring, Dr. Firouz Naderi, director of the Solar System Exploration Program Directorate and Mars Exploration Program manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will present a pair of free, public lectures about Mars exploration.

The lectures, entitled "The Robotic Exploration of Mars," will include discussions about the current Mars program, its goals and discoveries and its innovative ideas for future robotic Mars missions. The lectures will be presented Thursday evening, Dec. 12, at JPL, and Friday evening, Dec. 13, at Pasadena City College.

Further investigation of the planet is even more compelling and important with the recent detection of water ice beneath the martian surface. Since water is the key to life, the main strategy of the Mars program is to "follow the water." To determine whether conditions ever existed for the development of life on Mars, future robotic missions will join the extremely prolific Mars Odyssey and Mars Global Surveyor missions in providing a wealth of knowledge about the planet.

Before humans can ever set foot in the red dust of Mars, we must rely on robotic missions to reveal vital information about the planet. NASA's long-term plans for Mars include the 2005 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which will view martian landscapes at 20 to 30 centimeter (8 to 12 inch) resolution - good enough to observe rocks the size of beach balls. Since many scientifically interesting areas on Mars are potentially hazardous to spacecraft, NASA anticipates using "smart lander" technology as early as 2009, when a roving long-range, long-duration science laboratory mission is planned.

Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. The lecture will also be webcast live on Thurs., Dec. 12, at 7 p.m. Pacific time at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/events/lectures/dec02.html and will be archived online for later viewing.

The lecture at JPL, located at 4800 Oak Grove Dr., Pasadena, off the Oak Grove Drive exit of the 210 (Foothill) freeway, will be held in the von Karman Auditorium. The Friday lecture will be held in Pasadena City College's Vosloh Forum at 1570 E. Colorado Blvd. For more information, call (818) 354-0112 or see http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/events/lectures.html.

JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology.

Contacts: JPL/Colleen Sharkey (818) 354-0372


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