Fido on Mars
There's less than
a year to go before the launch of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover
mission, and in addition to testing all the hardware several dozen
times, scientists have been practicing to ways to run the the new
little Mars Rover very much like kids learning the ropes on a
new remotely controlled toy.
In early August a team
hauled one of the test Rovers (called Fido, by the way, for Field
Integrated Design Operations testbed) far out into the desert. Where?
They weren't saying; the operations team had to steer it hands-off,
just at they will the real Rover, once it gets to Mars.
The 10-day blind test
offered challenges similar to the ones Fido's pals will meet on on the
red planet. By running Fido again and again, JPL scientists are
learning how to identify (and interpret) the images and science data
that will help them learn Mars' desert geology.
The Mars Exploration
Rovers will be launched in May and June 2003. Onc ethey get to in
January 2004, they'll spend at least three months conducting surface
operations, looking for desert features that might prove -- or disprove
-- the idea that Mars once had a real water supply. More than 60
scientists from around the world will be telling the rovers what to do
and where to go from the mission control room at
The rovers are
currently being built at JPL and will be shipped to the Kennedy Space
Center in Florida early next year to begin preparations for launch.
Shortly before the launch, NASA will select the landing sites.
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