For Release: June 6, 2003
Lori J. Rachul
Media Relations Office
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover (MER) project kicks off by launching the first of two unique robotic geologists no earlier than Sunday, June 8 at 2:05 p.m. The second of the two rovers is scheduled to launch June 25. Visitors can view the live broadcast of the launch in NASA Glenn's Visitor Center auditorium on the large video screen which is open once again to the general public. The Visitor Center will open at Noon for visitors to view the countdown coverage that begins at 12:15 p.m.
MER-A, the first of the two rovers, will reach Mars on January 4, 2004, and MER-B on January 25. The two MER missions seek to determine the history of climate and water at two sites on Mars where conditions may once have been favorable to life. Both rovers are identical. Each rover carries five scientific instruments including a panoramic camera and microscope, plus a rock abrasion tool that will grind away the outer surfaces of rocks to expose their interiors for examination. The rovers each weigh approximately 400 pounds. They will navigate themselves around obstacles as they drive across the Martian surface, traveling up to about 130 feet each Martian day. Each rover's prime mission is planned to last three months on Mars.
Glenn's contributions to MER include a scientific study by aerospace engineer, Dr. Geoffrey Landis the principal investigator for the "Study of Solar Energy and Dust Accumulation on the Rovers;" and the testing of the landing system air bags in the Space Power Facility at Plum Brook Station in Sandusky.
The Visitor Center has resumed regular operations for general public access. General access had been suspended on May 22 with only prearranged groups being able to tour the Visitor Center. Visitors should be aware that the Center's security status is subject to change without advance notice and it is recommended to call the Visitor Center, 216-433-2000, on the day of their visit to confirm that it is open for general public access.
Admission to the Visitor Center is free and wheelchair accessible. With the Visitor Center being located inside Glenn's main gate and due to heightened security at the Center, there may be a slight delay for visitors upon entering Glenn. All adult visitors who are U.S. citizens are required to present a valid, government-issued photo identification upon arrival. Foreign nationals must present a visa or passport, Canadian citizens need to present a valid driver's license. All vehicles are subject to inspection. Citizens of countries designated by the United States government because of a special concern or interest may be denied access.
Hours of operation are Monday - Friday 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.; Saturdays 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.; and Sunday 1 - 5 p.m.
For information about the MER project on the Internet, visit: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mer
More information about the Visitor Center is available on the Internet at: http://www.grc.nasa.gov/Doc/visitgrc.htm
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