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Jan. 23, 2001

Kathleen Burton

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

Phone: 650/604-1731 or 650/604-9000

kburton@mail.arc.nasa.gov


NOTE TO EDITORS: News media are invited to attend the first of at least two landing site workshops for Mars exploration rovers on Jan. 24 and 25, beginning at 8:30 a.m. The program will be held in Bldg. N-245, the Space Science Auditorium, at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA. To reach Ames, take Highway 101 to the Moffett Field exit. Follow the exit to the main gate. Stop at Visitor Badging, to the right of the main gate, and receive a visitor badge and a map with directions to Bldg. N-245. Non-U.S. media must bring passports and press identification and will be escorted at all times.


NOTE TO EDITORS: 01-04AR

WORKSHOP TO EXPLORE POTENTIAL MARS LANDING SITES

NASA’s Ames Research Center will host the first of at least two landing site workshops for Mars exploration rovers on Jan. 24 and 25. The workshop will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day. Researchers and workshop organizers will be available during sessions and lunch breaks for one-on-one interviews.

At the workshop, researchers will evaluate potential landing sites best suited for Mars exploration rovers for the upcoming NASA Mars Exploration Rover-2003 mission (MER-03). This meeting is the first step in a long process to receive input from the science community about where and what it would like to investigate on Mars.

The MER-03 mission, managed and operated from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, will land two rovers on the surface of the red planet.

Landing site criteria for the MER-03 mission will include such things as the capability of the spacecraft to make a safe landing, the suitability of rover exploration, and the evidence of water in hydrothermal and dry lakebed environments. The actual landing sites for each rover will not be selected until at least a year before launch.

During the MER-03 mission, two Mars exploration rovers are expected to operate on the surface of Mars for a minimum of about 90 martian days. One Mars day is approximately 24 hours and 37 minutes, slightly longer than one Earth day.

The rovers’ scientific instruments will be used to interpret the geologic record at the site, to investigate what role water played there and to determine how suitable the conditions would have been for life.

A NASA-appointed landing site steering committee and the Mars Exploration Rover project will use the results of the workshop as the basis for narrowing the current list of potential landing sites under consideration.

Workshop highlights will include an overview of discussions about the MER-03 mission and its instruments on Wednesday morning, a discussion of current high-priority sites on Wednesday afternoon, technical sessions about dust and landing sites in craters that may have preserved evidence of water on Thursday morning, and a discussion of landing sites in the bottom of Mars’ "Grand Canyon" -- Vallis Marineris, on Thursday afternoon.

On-line workshop registration and an agenda are available at:

http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/mer2003/mer2003.1st.html

A complete listing of the Mars landing sites being considered is at: http://marsoweb.nas.nasa.gov/landingsites/mer2003 and http://webgis.wr.usgs.gov/mer

An overview of MER-03 exploration rovers is at: http://athena.cornell.edu and http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/facts/mars03rovers.pdf

A summary of NASA's Mars exploration strategy is at: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mep/mslides/index.html

Web tools for visualizing and analyzing relevant Mars data as well as an archive of previously proposed landing sites are available at http://marsoweb.nas.nasa.gov/landingsites/

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