Status Report

Media Advisory: NASA Announces Mars and Comet Mission Coverage

By SpaceRef Editor
December 25, 2003
Filed under , ,

On the evening of January 3, 2004, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Project will deliver the first of two mobile laboratories to the surface of Mars for robotic geological fieldwork, including the examination of rocks and soils that may reveal a history of past water activity. One day earlier, on January 2, NASA’s Stardust spacecraft will have a close encounter with comet Wild 2, deploying a collector to catch particles of the comet for later return to Earth.

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., have navigated the first rover, Spirit, to arrive at Mars at approximately 8:35 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (11:35 p.m. Eastern Standard Time) on Jan. 3. Spirit will land near the center of Gusev Crater, which may have once held a lake. Three weeks later, the second rover, Opportunity will reach the Meridiani Planum, a region containing exposed deposits of a mineral that usually forms under watery conditions. More information on the Mars Exploration Rover mission is available in a press kit at .


News media representatives who wish to cover Stardust and the rovers’ landings and Mars surface operations from JPL must be accredited through the JPL Media Relations Office at (000)-000-0000. Media who have completed and returned their accreditation applications may pick up their credentials at JPL beginning at 8:00 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 29. Credentials must be picked up in person and valid I.D. must be shown. Beginning Dec. 29, news media may apply for credentials in person at the JPL Visitor Reception building. To avoid long delays, media are encouraged to arrive and complete the credential application IN ADVANCE of January 3. JPL is located at 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, Calif. Note that JPL will be closed on December 31 and on January 1, 2004.

NEWSROOM OPERATING HOURS The JPL newsroom will open on December 29 at 8:00 a.m. Newsroom operating hours for the first week are:

  •        Dec. 29 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. PST
  •        Dec. 30 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. PST
  •        Dec. 31 closed
  •        Jan. 1, 2004 closed
  •        Jan. 2, 2004 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. PST
  •        Jan. 3, 2004 7:00 a.m. PST (open 24 hours)
  •        Jan. 4, 2004 open through midnight PST
  •        Jan. 5, 2004 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. PST


News briefings will be held at JPL beginning December 30, 2003. The schedule of briefings listed below is subject to change. Information about upcoming Mars briefings will be available on the Internet at JPL’s Mars News site, . Beginning Jan. 5, a daily briefing will be held each morning, usually at 9:00 a.m. PST (noon EST). Updated briefing schedules will also be available in the JPL newsroom.

Tuesday, Dec. 30

  • News briefing, Stardust pre-flyby overview, 11 a.m. to noon PST

Friday, Jan. 2

  • News briefing, Mars science overview, 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. PST
  • News briefing, Mars rover mission overview, 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. PST
  • News briefing, Stardust flyby, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. PST

Saturday, Jan. 3

  • News briefing, Spirit pre-landing status, noon to 1 p.m. PST
  • News briefing, Mars program overview, 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. PST
  • News briefing, Spirit post-landing status, 9:30 to 10:30 p.m. PST

Sunday, Jan. 4

  • News briefings, times TBD


The final opportunity for tours inside the Mars mission support areas will be offered on December 29 and 30 at the following times:

  • Dec. 29, at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.
  • Dec. 30, at 9:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Each tour is identical and will last two hours. Space is limited and will be filled on a first-come first-served basis. This will be the last time media will be allowed to photograph or videotape these areas in advance of landing. News media wishing to attend any one of these sessions must be credentialed and must RSVP to the JPL Media Relations office at 818-354-5011, or sign up in person at the JPL newsroom on December 29 and 30.


NASA Television will provide extensive mission coverage, including all press conferences as listed above, beginning with the December 30 Stardust pre-encounter briefing. A full schedule of live news briefings is available on the NASA Television site at .

Live commentary of the Stardust flyby of comet Wild 2 will air on NASA Television from 11:00 a.m. PST to noon PST on January 2 (2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. EST).

Live commentary of the Mars rover “Spirit” landing will air on NASA Television on Saturday, January 3, 2004, from 6:45 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. PST (9:45 p.m. to midnight EST). Commentary will resume from 11:00 p.m. to midnight PST (2:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. Jan. 4, EST) during a potential signal relay session.

NASA Television is broadcast on the satellite AMC-2, transponder 9C, C band, 85 degrees west longitude, frequency 3880.0 MHz, vertical polarization, audio monaural at 6.8 MHz.

Audio only of NASA Television coverage of the press conferences and commentary sessions will be available on the “V” circuits which may be dialed directly at 321/867-1220, 867-1240, 867-1260, 867-7135


Extensive information on the Mars Exploration Rover project including an electronic copy of the press kit, press releases, fact sheets, status reports, briefing schedule and images, is available from the JPL’s Mars Exploration Rover news site: .

Detailed information about the mission for a public audience is available on the Mars Exploration Rover project’s web site at: .

Cornell University’s web site on the science payload is at: .

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover project for NASA’s Office of Space Science, Washington.

SpaceRef staff editor.