Target: General Audience
Length: 60 minutes
Guide: Passport to Knowledge (P2K)
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On August 27, 2003, the planet Mars was nearer to Earth than at any time in the past 50,000 years. In January 2004, NASA's twin Mars Exploration Rovers, MER, approached the Red Planet at some 12,000 miles per hour, bounced to a halt with an airbag landing system and began a mission searching for evidence of liquid water on Mars and environments which may once have been home to life.
But the rovers' journeys started long before launch or landing. BOUNCING TO MARS goes behind the scenes to tell the story of their design and development, in the words of the diverse team of men and women who brought the robots to life. BOUNCING TO MARS features scenes in the world's largest vacuum chamber in Sandusky, OH, as engineers face unexpected failures in the airbags. Raucous scientific meetings resulted in votes about where to land, and what to look for. A record-breaking cross-country convoy took the spacecraft to the Cape. Tough questions from review boards reminded them about how important MER was to NASA and the nation, and how much was riding on their success. Two thirds of all missions to Mars don't make it, and BOUNCING TO MARS is the inside story of MER's efforts both to get to Mars and land safely, and do breakthrough science.
BOUNCING TO MARS and the ongoing "To Mars with MER" project is made possible, in part, by NSF, the National Science Foundation. Outreach and additional educational programming are supported by NASA, NSF, and other public and private partners.
This program was first broadcast on NASA TV Education File Schedule August 27, 2003.