October 13, 2004
Two free public programs in Pasadena this week will introduce NASA's next Mars mission, a multipurpose orbiter under assembly for launch next August.
NASA is equipping the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to advance our understanding of Mars through detailed observation, to examine potential landing sites for future surface missions, and to provide a high-data-rate communications relay for those missions. Jim Graf, project manager for the orbiter, will describe the project on Thursday evening, Oct. 14, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Dr. Richard Zurek, the project scientist, will do so Friday evening, Oct. 15, at Pasadena City College.
"Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will be one of the most exciting missions ever sent to Mars," Graf said. "It is a next-generation orbiter that will work in conjunction with surface missions to give us a new understanding of the processes shaping the planet." The orbiter will carry the most powerful telescopic camera ever flown to another planet, one that is able to show martian landscape features as small as a kitchen table. That camera and five other science instruments will pour data back to Earth at about 10 times the rate of any previous Mars mission.
Graf has worked on space-related projects for nearly 30 years, from development of ion thruster technology to management of the Earth-orbiting Quick Scatterometer mission. He holds a bachelor's degree from Princeton University, Princeton, N.J., and a master's from Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo. NASA has awarded him its Outstanding Leadership Medal. Zurek's bachelor's degree in mathematics is from Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., and his doctorate in atmospheric sciences is from the University of Washington, Seattle.
The talks will be part of JPL's Theodore von Kármán Lecture Series. Both will begin at 7 p.m. Seating is first-come, first-served. The Thursday lecture will be in JPL's von Kármán Auditorium. JPL is at 4800 Oak Grove Dr., off the Oak Grove Drive exit of the 210 (Foothill) Freeway. The Friday lecture will be in Pasadena City College's Vosloh Forum, 1570 E. Colorado Blvd. For more information, call (818) 354-0112. Thursday's lecture will be webcast live and available afterwards at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/events/lectures/oct04.cfm.
Guy Webster (818) 354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.