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Two free public programs in Pasadena this week will present the dramatic story of NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers.

Nagin Cox of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. will show pictures and describe the adventure on Thursday evening, May 20, at JPL and on Friday evening, May 21, at Pasadena City College. She is deputy chief of the engineering team for the rovers and for the spacecraft that delivered the rovers to Mars.

The twin rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, are now exploring Mars in extended missions after successfully completing all tasks set for them in their primary three-month missions at sites halfway around Mars from each other. Spirit is approaching hills where scientists hope it will find older rocks than the rover has examined so far. Opportunity, in its first two months after landing, found evidence of an ancient body of water. It is now perched at the edge of a stadium- sized crater where exposed rocks might reveal more about the region's wet past.

The rovers' landings in January, aided by parachutes and airbags, provided breathtaking moments. The story Cox will tell begins earlier, with design and building of the spacecraft at JPL in preparation for launches from Florida in mid-2003.

At JPL, Cox worked on NASA's Galileo mission to Jupiter before switching to Mars missions. She holds engineering and psychology degrees from Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., and a master's degree in space operations systems engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Prior to joining JPL in 1993, she served as a U.S. Air Force captain at the U.S. Space Command in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Both lectures will begin at 7 p.m. Seating is first-come, first-served. The Thursday lecture will be in JPL's von Karman 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

News Media Contact

Guy Webster (818) 354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.