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Is there life on Mars? Could humans build a new off-Earth settlement on the red planet? Like the Earth's little brother, Mars has long fascinated sky-watchers. NASA's new plans for exploration of Mars include the Athena Payload: instruments and tools for a Mars rover. Equipped with the Athena Payload, the twin rovers of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover project will be robotic field geologists, exploring Mars' climate history and searching for signs of water and life. So suit up, strap in, and prepare to blast off with Athena: roving soon on a planet near you.

Expected Landing Times

Spirit: 11:35 p.m. Eastern Standard Time January 3
Opportunity: 12:05 a.m. Eastern Standard Time January 25

Note: Times are "Earth-received time." They include the one-way time (about 10 minutes) for information to reach Earth from Mars.

Mission Update!

Week Ending December 13, 2003

It's less than three weeks until Spirit lands. Our last operations readiness test is over. The final flight software has been loaded onto both Spirit and Opportunity, and we've finished and tested all of the instrument commands for the first week after we land. Final pre-landing health checks are done on all the instruments. The spacecraft are ready to go.

Down here on Earth, we're a little less ready. Once these things hit the ground, our whole team is going to be completely consumed by flight operations for months. So the focus now is getting our lives in order so that we won't have too many distractions when the time comes. Dentist appointments. Haircuts. Drivers license renewals. Flu shots. All the little things we've neglected for the past six months while we've been getting ready to land, or that we know we won't have time for for who knows how many months after we land.

And then there's the matter of sleep. It's too bad we can't save it up now, because we're not going to be getting a lot of it after landing! But least we're trying to make sure that everybody gets rested and healthy, so that we start off in good shape. Anyway, the plan is that in another couple of weeks the team will be as ready for all this as Spirit and Opportunity are now.

Read More

Full-Scale Rover Model on Display Rocky Road to Mars View the Mars Exploration Rover Project website

A Global Endeavor Denmark Germany

The Athena Payload is an international effort with major contributions by Germany and Denmark. Click on the flags above for more information.

Students and Teachers to Explore Mars

While the ultimate field trip might someday be an actual journey to Mars, NASA is doing the next best thing — giving high school teams the opportunity to explore Mars by working on specific research projects during the Mars Exploration Rover missions, set to land on the Red Planet in January 2004. Click here to learn more.

List of participating schools

Spirit and Opportunity

The twin robotic geologists NASA is sending to Mars will embody in their newly chosen names — Spirit and Opportunity — two cherished attributes that guide humans to explore. Click here to learn more.

See the New Videos

Flight Plan: Cruise

New MER Wallpaper

Science Bites

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