Two free public programs in Pasadena this week will offer an
introduction to the challenges and excitement of NASA’s project to
examine two areas of Mars with robotic rovers that are currently
flying to Mars.

Peter Theisinger, Mars Exploration Rover project manager, will
describe the project on Thursday evening, Aug. 21, at NASA’s Jet
Propulsion Laboratory, and on Friday evening, Aug. 22, at Pasadena
City College.

"Three years of work by a great team got these spacecraft built and
tested and launched, but the biggest hurdle is still in front of us,"
Theisinger said. "We have to get them safely onto the surface of

The two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, will arrive three weeks apart
in January at opposite sides of Mars. They will bounce and roll inside
cocoons of inflated airbags. Unlike the much smaller Sojourner rover
of the Mars Pathfinder mission in 1997, each Mars Exploration Rover
will be independent of its stationary lander, capable of communicating
directly with Earth and carrying a full set of cameras for scouting
locations to explore. At selected rocks it will extend an arm bearing
geological tools for close-up analysis. The landing sites were
selected as places likely to hold geological clues about the history
of water on Mars.

Theisinger, a La Crescenta resident, has worked on several
interplanetary exploration missions since his 1967 graduation from the
California Institute of Technology, including Voyager to the outer
planets, Galileo to Jupiter and Mars Global Surveyor.

His two talks will be part of JPL’s Theodore von Karman Lecture
Series. Both will begin at 7 p.m. Seating is first-come, first-served.
The Thursday lecture will be in JPL’s von Karman Auditorium. JPL is at
4800 Oak Grove Dr., off the Oak Grove Drive exit of the 210 (Foothill)
Freeway. The Friday lecture will be in Pasadena City College’s Vosloh
Forum, 1570 E. Colorado Blvd. For more information, call (818)
354-0112. Thursday’s lecture will be webcast live and available
afterwards at .