NASA Makes Mars 2003 Mission Selection

By Keith Cowing
July 27, 2000
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Athena NASA Announced today that it has decided to send one – perhaps two rovers to Mars in 2003. In making this decision, NASA passed on an opportunity to launch an orbiter to Mars during the same launch window.

NASA’s plans are to send one rover to Mars for certain. If funds permit, a second rover would be sent as well. The rover design to be used is Athena, a rover currently under development at JPL and Cornell University. Athena is larger than the Sojourner Rover which landed on Mars in 1997 but shares many design similarities.

The landing system to be used for these rovers is also similar to that used on Pathfinder: balloons. Unlike the Pathfinder mission however, the rovers will touch down on Mars without a lander spacecraft. This is due to the increased size of the Athena rover compared to that of Sojourner.

Athena is designed to travel up to 100 meters per day. It will carry instruments that will look for water and perform geological experiments. One device will allow fresh rock surfaces to be revealed for close study. Athena will also have a high resolution panoramic camera which it will use to make a detailed survey of its travels across Mars.

No landing sites have been chosen – nor has a date been given by which the decision to send a second rover will be made. However, NASA has committed to announcing its new Mars plans in greater detail this Fall.

Background Information

° NASA Goes Back to the Future with Plans for a Mars Rover in 2003: Possible Second Rover Being Studied, NASA PAO

° NASA Chooses Cornell To Lead Science Effort For Mars 2003 Mission

° The Planetary Society Welcomes NASA’s Plan to Send a Rover to Mars

° Athena Mission to Mars, Cornell University

Related information

° The Whole Mars Catalog

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