NASA Hears From Opportunity Rover On Mars

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JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
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Guy Webster (818) 354-5011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Donald Savage (202) 358-1547
NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
NEWS RELEASE: 2004-035 January 25, 2004
NASA HEARS FROM OPPORTUNITY ROVER ON MARS
NASA's second Mars Exploration Rover successfully sent signals to
Earth during its bouncy landing and after it came to rest on one of
the three side petals of its four-sided lander.
Mission engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena,
Calif., received the first signal from Opportunity on the ground at
9:05 p.m. Pacific Standard Time Saturday via the NASA Deep Space
Network, which was listening with antennas in California and
Australia.
"We're on Mars, everybody!" JPL's Rob Manning, manager for development
of the landing system, announced to the cheering flight team.
NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said at a subsequent press briefing,
"This was a tremendous testament to how NASA, when really focused on
an objective, can put every ounce of effort, energy, emotion and
talent to an important task. This team is the best in the world, no
doubt about it."
Opportunity landed in a region called Meridiani Planum, halfway around
the planet from the Gusev Crater site where its twin rover, Spirit,
landed three weeks ago. Earlier today, mission managers reported
progress in understanding and dealing with communications and computer
problems on Spirit.
"In the last 48 hours, we've been on a roller coaster," said Dr. Ed
Weiler, NASA associate administrator for space science. "We
resurrected one rover and saw the birth of another."
JPL's Pete Theisinger, project manager for the rovers, said, "We are
two for two. Here we are tonight with Spirit on a path to recovery and
with Opportunity on Mars."
By initial estimates, Opportunity landed about 24 kilometers (15
miles) down range from the center of the target landing area. That is
well within an outcropping of a mineral called gray hematite, which
usually forms in the presence of water. "We're going to have a good
place to do science," said JPL's Richard Cook, deputy project manager
for the rovers.
Once it pushed itself upright by opening the petals of the lander,
Opportunity was expected to be facing east.
The main task for both rovers in coming months is to explore the areas
around their landing sites for evidence in rocks and soils about
whether those areas ever had environments that were watery and
possibly suitable for sustaining life.
JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena,
manages the Mars Exploration Rover project for NASA's Office of Space
Science, Washington, D.C. Additional information about the project
is available from JPL at
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and from Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., at
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.
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