“The ability of humans to explore Mars has never been better, and the desire to do so has never been greater,” said Space Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer Elliot G. Pulham in applauding the launch this month of three near-simultaneous Mars exploration missions. Two robotic Mars explorers – one European and one American – launched recently on a seven-month journey to explore the red planet. Another U.S. mission launches soon.

Spirit, the first of a pair of five-foot-long NASA rovers, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. atop a Boeing-built Delta II rocket June 10, to examine rocks and soil for clues to whether the red planet may have been a hospitable place for life. Spirit is expected to arrive at Mars on Jan. 4, 2004.

A second NASA rover, Opportunity, is destined for a different landing spot on Mars and scheduled to launch June 25, for arrival on Jan. 25.

The twin rolling rovers can see sharper images, explore farther and examine rocks better than anything that’s ever landed on Mars. Both are expected to operate for at least three months.

The “Beagle 2” lander is a British led effort to land on Mars as part of the European Space Agency’s Mars Express Mission, which also launched earlier this month. Once on the surface of Mars, Beagle will manipulate and collect soil samples for study and analysis.

“Mars is our nearest planetary neighbor,” said Pulham. “It may once have sustained life, and it is conceivable as humans push outward from Earth that Mars could sustain life again. While the probes are robotic, the fundamental questions they seek to answer are uniquely human. We salute both NASA and the European Space Agency for their commitment to exploration.”

For more information on these Mars missions, visit mars.jpl.nasa.gov/newsroom/index.html or www.beagle2.com/index.htm.

The Colorado Springs-based Space Foundation advances and supports space endeavors and educational excellence. Its programs include Strategic Space 2003, a national security space conference; the National Space Symposium, the premier space policy forum; the International Space Symposium, Where Space Means Businessô; Space at the Crossroads, a highly focused one-day conference; Space Discovery K-16 educator graduate courses and Mastersí Degree programs for teachers. The organization is also active nationally and internationally in space policy and technology matters. For more information visit www.spacefoundation.org.