Contact: Susan Lendroth

NASA announced today that the 2003 mission to Mars will include a lander
carrying a rover for Mars surface exploration — possibly even two rovers.

“Double the rovers: double the fun…and double the science, too,” said
Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society about the
possibility of sending two rovers to Mars in 2003.

Scheduled to launch in June, 2003 and land on January 20, 2004, the Mars
Exploration Program Rover will bounce to the surface on airbags just like
the successful 1997 Pathfinder spacecraft. But, unlike Pathfinder, whose
small rover communicated with a stationary science platform on the surface,
the 2003 spacecraft will consist entirely of a large, long-range rover,
making it essentially a mobile scientific station.

“The Planetary Society applauds NASA’s decision to return to the surface of
Mars with a mobile explorer,” said Friedman. “With a surface area the size
of Earth’s land mass and possible liquid water, Mars is an essential space
exploration goal in the 21st century.”

With far greater mobility and scientific capability than Pathfinder, the
Mars Exploration Program Rover will be able to travel up to 100 meters
across the surface each Martian day, traveling almost as far in one day as
the Pathfinder Sojourner rover did over its entire lifetime.

The 2003 rover will carry a sophisticated set of instruments that will
allow it to search for evidence of liquid water that may have been present
in the planet’s past, as well as study the geologic building blocks on the

The exact landing site has not yet been chosen, but mission planners will
likely target a former lake bed or channel deposit – a place where
scientists believe there was once water.

If NASA includes a second, duplicate rover, it might land at about the same
time as the first rover, but in a very different location. The feasibility
of the second rover is being studied by NASA headquarters, who will
announce their decision in the next few weeks.

“The Planetary Society looks forward to this mission and to providing an
opportunity for student and public involvement in Mars exploration,”
Friedman said.

The Society currently offers students worldwide a chance to participate
with the ongoing Mars Global Surveyor mission via the Society’s Red Rover
Goes to Mars project. Red Rover Goes to Mars was originally developed for
the now cancelled Mars 2001 lander mission. Visit the Society’s website at for more information.



For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact Susan
Lendroth at (626)793-5100 ext. 214 or by e-mail at


Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded The Planetary Society
in 1980 to advance the exploration of the solar system and to continue the
search for extraterrestrial life. With 100,000 members in over 140
countries, the Society is the largest space interest group in the world..


NASA press release:
Cornell University — Athena Mission to Mars website: