Guy Webster (818) 354-6278|
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
JPL Newsroom (818) 354-5011
News Release: 2004-003
Mars Exploration Rover Spirit successfully sent a radio signal after
the spacecraft had bounced and rolled for several minutes following
its initial impact at 11:35 p.m. EST (8:35 p.m. Pacific Standard
Time) on January 3.
"This is a big night for NASA," said NASA Administrator Sean
O'Keefe. "We're back. I am very, very proud of this team, and we're
Members of the mission's flight team at NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., cheered and clapped when they learned
that NASA's Deep Space Network had received a post-landing signal
from Spirit. The cheering resumed about three hours later when the
rover transmitted its first images to Earth, relaying them through
NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter.
"We've got many steps to go before this mission is over, but we've
retired a lot of risk with this landing," said JPL's Pete
Theisinger, project manager for the Mars Exploration Rover Project.
Deputy project manager for the rovers, JPL's Richard Cook, said,
"We're certainly looking forward to Opportunity landing three weeks
from now." Opportunity is Spirit's twin rover, headed for the
opposite side of Mars.
Dr. Charles Elachi, JPL director, said, "To achieve this mission, we
have assembled the best team of young women and men this country can
put together. Essential work was done by other NASA centers and by
our industrial and academic partners.
Spirit stopped rolling with its base petal down, though that
favorable position could change as airbags deflate, said JPL's Rob
Manning, development manager for the rover's descent through Mars'
atmosphere and landing on the surface.
NASA chose Spirit's landing site, within Gusev Crater, based on
evidence from Mars orbiters that this crater may have held a lake
long ago. A long, deep valley, apparently carved by ancient flows
of water, leads into Gusev. The crater itself is basin the size of
Connecticut created by an asteroid or comet impact early in Mars'
history. Spirit's task is to spend the next three months exploring
for clues in rocks and soil about whether the past environment at
this part of Mars was ever watery and suitable to sustain life.
Spirit traveled 487 million kilometers (302.6 million) miles to
reach Mars after its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station,
Fla., on June 10, 2003. Its twin, Mars Exploration Rover
Opportunity, was launched July 7, 2003, and is on course for a
landing on the opposite side of Mars on Jan. 25 (Universal Time and
EST; 9:05 p.m. on Jan. 24, PST).
The flight team expects to spend more than a week directing Spirit
through a series of steps in unfolding, standing up and other
preparations necessary before the rover rolls off of its lander
platform to get its wheels onto the ground. Meanwhile, Spirit's
cameras and a mineral-identifying infrared instrument will begin
examining the surrounding terrain. That information will help
engineers and scientists decide which direction to send the rover
JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, manages
the Mars Exploration Rover project for NASA's Office of Space
Science, Washington. Additional information about the project is
available from JPL at:
and from Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., at: