CONTACT: Erich Landstrom, NASA JPL Solar System
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE JUNE 26, 2003
OPPORTUNITY TO SEE MARS ROVER LAUNCH AND PARTY WITH
THE RED PLANET THIS SATURDAY, JUNE 28 AT MIDNIGHT!
Mars has an ambassador on Earth in Florida. His name
is Robert Gass, and Rob invites you to party in Jetty
Park on the space coast of the sunshine state this
Saturday, to see the historic launch of the next
spacecraft bound for the red planet.
The event includes:
- Games & prizes
- Live and lively lectures by project scientists
- Countdown and status reports throughout the night
- Displays and literature
- A location as close to the rocket as you can get
(even the VIP�s are not closer!)
- View the launch with the people who built the
The second of twin Mars Exploration Rovers is targeted
to thunder into the midnight sky on Saturday, June
28th. The rover mission will lift off from Cape
Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., onboard a Delta II
launch vehicle. The first launch time for Opportunity,
the second rover, is June 28 at 11:56 pm EDT (8:56 PM
Pacific time), the second time is at 12:37 am June 29
EDT. Ambassador Robert Gass will continue his
tradition of hosting a launchday public event at Jetty
Park, outside Cape Canaveral, affording excellent
views of the launch and telling those who attend the
pre-dawn event all about the mission and its goals.
Gates open at 9:00 pm and admission is free. However,
the park will charge a $3.00 per car entrance fee.
Space is limited so it is recommended that partiers
Gass, an accountant, volunteers his time as a solar
system ambassador for NASA�s Jet Propulsion
Laboratory. Like most of other ambassadors, Gass, of
Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was an astronomy buff who
enjoyed sharing his enthusiasm even before learning
about this program. "I had been looking for new ways
to reach people," Gass said. "Before, people said,
'Who is this guy? He's an accountant.' Now, the
affiliation with JPL helps. I talk with the mission
scientists. I've had training sessions." NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif., helps
train solar system ambassadors and solar system
educators learn about missions such as the twin rovers
Spirit and Opportunity, to Mars; Cassini, to Saturn;
and Stardust and Deep Impact, to comets. The
ambassadors and educators participate in
teleconferences and Internet chats directly with
scientists and engineers working on the missions. They
also receive materials such as brochures, posters,
color slides and videos to help them excite other
people about the wonders of the solar system. But
whereas the ambassadors commit to arranging at least
four public outreach projects during the year, the
educators focus on �teaching the teachers,� offering
at least three workshops to 100 science teachers
during the year. Ambassador projects range from
library talks to original theater productions;
educator workshops range from egg-drop simulations of
Mars landings to cooking up comets in the classroom.
Gass wants to fill the park with 12,000 people. VIPs
include the entire Athena science team from Cornell
University including Mars Exploration Rover, a hefty
helping of NASA brass from HQ in DC, and a possible
appearance by a certain �Science Guy.�
Entertainment at the launch party includes telescope
viewing of Mars, broadcast of NASA TV feed, two game
shows with prizes furnished by Boeing, and three live
and lively talks. The games include �Let's make a
Martian Deal,� and �Guess Your Martian Weight.� The
first talk will be on Mars, the second will be on the
MER mission and spacecraft, and the last will be on
Athena science package on the rovers.
This event is being brought to Florida by the NASA Jet
Propulsion Laboratory�s Solar System Ambassadors
Program with support from Boeing and Cornell
Jetty Park is at Port Canaveral, on the Atlantic Ocean
just south of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
border. Both expendable launch vehicle and space
shuttle liftoffs can be viewed from here. The park is
open all day year-round. Prices for admittance are $3
and up. The park typically closes at 9 p.m. but
adjusts its hours to accommodate launch viewing. Call
(321) 783-7111 for directions.
The NASA robotic geologist named Opportunity began its
seven-month journey to Mars will reach Mars on Jan.
25, 2004. Opportunity will roam a landing area on Mars
that bears evidence of a wet history. The rover will
examine rocks and soil for clues to whether the site
may have been a hospitable place for life.
Opportunity's twin, Spirit, launched on June 10th and
will be targeted to a separate site with different
signs of a watery past.
Erich Landstrom, NASA JPL Solar System Educator
Solar System Educators Program http://www.ssep.org
[Hands-on teacher training workshops sharing NASA's
missions of research, discovery and exploration!]
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