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NASA Mars Exploration Rover Team to be Honored

by on September 7, 2012

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PASADENA, Calif. — The mission team for NASA’s long-lived Mars
Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity will be awarded the Haley
Space Flight Award. The team will receive the award Sept. 12 during
the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Space
2012 Conference and Exposition in Pasadena, Calif.

The award is presented for outstanding contributions by an astronaut
or flight test personnel to the advancement of the art, science or
technology of astronautics. Past recipients include Alan Shepherd,
John Glenn, Thomas Stafford, Robert Crippen, Kathryn Sullivan and the
crew of space shuttle mission STS-125, which flew in 2009 on the last
shuttle mission to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

The award citation praises this project’s “new techniques in
extraterrestrial robotic system operations to explore another world
and extend mission lifetime.” Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager
John Callas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena,
will accept the award for the team.

“On behalf of the many hundreds of scientists and engineers who
designed, built and operate these rovers, it is a great honor to
accept this most prestigious award,” Callas said. “It is especially
gratifying that this comes right as Opportunity is conducting one of
the most significant campaigns in the eight-and-a-half years since
landing. We still are going strong, with perhaps the most exciting
exploration still ahead.”

In its eighth year operating on Mars, Opportunity is surveying a
crater-rim outcrop of layered rock in search of clay minerals that
could provide new information about a formerly wet environment.
Spirit worked for more than six years — until 2010 — 24 times
longer than its original three-month prime mission.

In just the past two months, Opportunity has driven about a third of a
mile (more than 525 meters), extending its total overland travel
distance to 21.76 miles (35 kilometers). Recent drives along the
inner edge of the Cape York segment of the western rim of Endeavour
Crater have brought the rover close to a layered outcrop in an area
where clay minerals have been detected from orbit. These minerals
could offer evidence of ancient, wet conditions with less acidity
than the ancient, wet environments recorded at sites Opportunity
visited during its first seven years on Mars.

Opportunity’s position overlooking 14-mile-wide (22-kilometer-wide)
Endeavour Crater is about 5,200 miles (8,400 kilometers) from where
Curiosity, NASA’s next-generation Mars rover, landed inside Gale
Crater a month ago.

JPL manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project for NASA’s Science
Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more information about Opportunity and Spirit, visit

http://www.nasa.gov/rovers

and

http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov

You can follow the project on Twitter and on Facebook at:

http://twitter.com/MarsRovers

and

http://www.facebook.com/mars.rovers

-end-

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