MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109 TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: Guy Webster (818) 354-6278
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Aug. 10, 2000
NASA PLANS TO SEND ROVER TWINS TO MARS IN 2003
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, Washington, D.C.
Both Mars rovers, to be built, managed and operated by
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., currently are
planned for launch 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.
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.
"For the first time, science and technology have given us
the capability to explore alien planets in ways that used to
exist only in science fiction movies," said Weiler. "To have two
rovers driving over dramatically different regions of Mars at the
same time, to be able to drive over and see what's on the other
side of the hill -- it's an incredibly exciting idea." Weiler
added, "I think everyone on Earth who has ever dreamed of being
an explorer on an alien planet will want to go along for the ride
as we explore the surface of Mars."
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.
"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."
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 Science.
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.
NOTE TO EDITORS: Fact sheets for the Mars 2003 rover and the Mars
2001 Orbiter missions are available at