Squyres covers morning talk shows with Spirit
June 12, 2003
By Blaine P. Friedlander Jr.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- America ate breakfast with Cornell astronomer
Steven Squyres on the morning of June 6, when the scientist appeared on
all the network morning news programs to explain the importance of the
launch of Spirit, the first Mars Exploration Rover.
Speaking from the clean room at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape
Canaveral, Squyres told Lester Holt, on NBC's "Today" show, that the
twin-rover mission will be quite different from the Mars Pathfinder
mission in 1997. "On Pathfinder we were demonstrating the technology.
Here we're taking that technology to explore more of Mars this time," he
Squyres, NASA's principal investigator for the mission's Athena science
package, to be carried by the two roving vehicles, told Holt that "this
time we're sending two rovers to opposite sides of the red planet" and
"we're using a tried-and-true landing system" to get there. Spirit was
launched June 10, and the second rover, named Opportunity, is scheduled
for launch June 25.
Humanity has always been curious about the planets, noted Squyres,
adding that Mars is a "cold, dry, barren and desolate place." But, he
said, "We're going to two places where we think there might have been
water. We have some hints of it."
On "Fox Morning News," Squyres explained to viewers that the mission on
the planet's surface will be conducted by robotic geologists, with
cameras and spectrometers aboard the rovers looking for rocks, and with
a rock abrasion tool grinding at rocks to gather more information. "I
don't know what we're going to find," he said.
Squyres could not keep his happiness and excitement about the Mars
mission hidden behind his clean-room suit and face garb. "We will be
trying to read the story that the rocks are telling us, and we'll
probably get a few surprises," he told NBC.