Friday, October 28, 2005

Miss MER

That's how a friend recently addressed me in an email - I am a new member of the Athena Science Team and will be working with the fabulous little robotic explorers on the Martian surface to get to new places and look at new rocks and try to figure out what we can about Mars. So many people have asked me what's going on, what will I actually be doing, what does it take to drive the rovers around, what will I be learning - so I'll be keeping this blog for a while to let you know when I do! So far, I don't know a whole lot about my new role but I'll try to reflect what it's like as I learn.

First of all, the Mars Exploration Rovers are twin spacecraft built and operated by the Jet Propulsion Lab in Los Angeles. The rovers each carry a package of instruments called the Athena science package. So I'm a member of the science team, chosen to conduct science investigations with the instrument package.

The MER rovers landed on Mars in 2004 and have been like the energizer bunny - still going! The principal investigator, Steve Squyres, recounts the building, launch, and first year of the mission in his book, Roving Mars : Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet, that I will be picking up this weekend.

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