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In January of 2004, twin robotic explorers named Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars. Expected to last for 90 days, the two rovers have now been exploring the Martian surface for more than six years. The development of Spirit and Opportunity required a team of more than 4,000 highly motivated engineers and scientists who overcame a host of technical challenges – challenges that were multiplied by an extraordinarily tight schedule literally driven by the alignment of the planets.
Join Dr. Squyres as he tells the fascinating story of Spirit and Opportunity’s initial conception, how he persevered through multiple rejections of his ideas by NASA, through development, and the design process that led to such extraordinary performance, launch, landing, and six years of exploration on Mars.
Dr. Steven Squyres is the James A. Weeks Professor of Physical Sciences at Cornell University and the acclaimed principal investigator for the science payload on the Mars Exploration Rover Project. He is best known as the face and voice of NASA’s mission to Mars and the pioneering drive across its surface by two high-tech robotic rovers named “Spirit” and “Opportunity.”
Dr. Squyres’ work has focused on Mars and the moons of the outer planets. He is best known for research on the study of water on Mars and of the possible existence and habitability of a liquid water ocean on Europa. Along with the Mars Exploration Rovers, he has participated in many of NASA’s planetary exploration missions, including the Voyager mission to Jupiter and Saturn, the Magellan mission to Venus, and the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission. Along with his current work on MER, he is also a co-investigator on the Mars Express, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Science Laboratory missions; a member of the Gamma-Ray Spectrometer Team for the Mars Odyssey mission; and a member of the imaging team for the Cassini mission to Saturn.
Dr. Squyres chaired the most recent planetary decadal survey for the National Research Council. He has also served as chair of the NASA Space Science Advisory Committee and was recently named chair of the NASA Advisory Council. His awards include the American Astronomical Society’s Harold C. Urey Prize, the Space Science Award of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the American Astronautical Society’s Carl Sagan Award, the National Space Society’s Wernher von Braun Award and the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the Franklin Institute. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Dr. Squyres received his PhD from Cornell in 1981 and spent five years as a postdoctoral associate and research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center before returning to Cornell as a faculty member.
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