Steve Squyres, who served as principal investigator for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, is retiring from Cornell University to become chief scientist at Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, the Cornell Chroniclereports.
“Cornell has been a wonderful place for me, as both a student and a professor. With the Mars rover missions behind us, it’s time for me to find a new challenge, but I will always be a proud Cornellian,” Squyres said.
“Scientist, scholar and space explorer, Steve transformed planetary exploration through his leadership of the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers,” said Jonathan I. Lunine, the David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences and chair of the Department of Astronomy. “Now he goes on to a new challenge, working to transform the architecture of spaceflight at one of the most innovative companies in the industry.”
“This mission [Spirit and Opportunity] was a great teaching tool,” Squyres said earlier this year for the celebration of the mission’s 15th anniversary. “It’s easy to think of science as a static body of knowledge that you learn from a textbook. It is not. We know more about Mars today than we knew two days ago. For years I’ve started each lecture with, ‘Here’s something that just came down from Mars.’”
“Steve has inspired countless students and colleagues over his decades at Cornell,” said Ray Jayawardhana, the Harold Tanner Dean of Arts and Sciences and professor of astronomy. “He brought Mars to campus and gave us all a chance to see another world close-up. His infectious enthusiasm for exploration will continue to stimulate planetary scientists at Cornell for years to come. We wish him all the best.”
NASA landed Spirit and Opportunity on Mars in January 2004 on nominal 90-day missions. Spirit last communicated with controllers on May 25, 2011 after more than seven years on the surface. Opportunity last communicated on June 10, 2018 as a dust storm engulfed the rover.
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — One of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration, NASA’s Opportunity rover mission is at an end after almost 15 years exploring the surface of Mars and helping lay the groundwork for NASA’s return to the Red Planet.
The Opportunity rover stopped communicating with Earth when a severe Mars-wide dust stormblanketed its location in June 2018. After more than a thousand commands to restore contact, engineers in the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) made their last attempt to revive Opportunity Tuesday, to no avail. The solar-powered rover’s final communication was received June 10.
AUSTIN, Texas (NASA PR) — If you were stranded on Mars, could you pull a Mark Watney from the book and movie “The Martian” and grow your food? Thanks to a new garden kit that mimics the soil conditions on the Red Planet, you can find out.
But the kit isn’t just for fun — it’s based on research NASA has been doing for more than 30 years, both to determine just what makes up the dirt on Earth’s next-door neighbor and to find equivalents here on the ground.
After 10 months of effort, NASA has given up on trying to free Spirit from the sand trap that it drove into on Mars. The space agency has declared the rover – which has been on Mars for six years – as a “stationary science platform.”
I know it’s probably disappointment, but the rover will still conduct valuable science. Six years is an amazing time to be on Mars. For anyone feeling a bit sad, this video might lighten the mood a bit. Hey, it can happen to anyone!
The full press release is after the break. (more…)
NASA’s Mars rover Spirit will mark six years of unprecedented science exploration and inspiration for the American public on Sunday. However, the upcoming Martian winter could end the roving career of the beloved, scrappy robot.
NASA rovers Spirit and Opportunity may still have big achievements ahead as they approach the fifth anniversaries of their memorable landings on Mars.
Of the hundreds of engineers and scientists who cheered at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 3, 2004, when Spirit landed safely, and 21 days later when Opportunity followed suit, none predicted the team would still be operating both rovers in 2009.
NASA’s Science group has seen an abrupt turnover in its top leadership. S. Alan Stern, associate administrator for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate, announced his resignation on Wednesday. John Mather, the directorate’s chief scientist, is also reported to be heading back to his full-time position on the James Webb Space Telescope program.
“Alan has rendered invaluable service to NASA as the Principal Investigator for the Pluto/New Horizons mission, as a member of the NASA Advisory Council, and as the associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate,” Administrator Mike Griffin said in a statement. “While I deeply regret his decision to leave NASA, I understand his reasons for doing so, and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”
Two-thirds of the agency’s new programs are over-budget or behind schedule.
“NASA’s nearly stagnant budget requires the agency to cut projects to make up for unexpected expenses, and cost overruns nearly shut down one of the rovers on Mars â€” until it got a reprieve Tuesday. They also threaten completion of a climate-change satellite called Glory,” the paper reports.
NASA has apparently given a reprieve to the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. The Associated Press reports:
“NASA has no plans to turn off either of the healthy twin Mars rovers to make up for cost overruns faced by a big new rover slated to fly to the Red Planet next year, the space agency said.
“In a rare move, NASA said it rescinded a letter sent last week to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena that directed budget cuts to the Mars exploration program, including a $4 million reduction from the rovers project.”
Space.com is reporting that NASA has ordered a 40 percent cut in the operating budgets for the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers over the next 18 months. The change involves a $4 million cut in the remaining FY 2008 budget and an $8 million reduction for FY 2009. It costs about $20 million annually to operate the two rovers.
NASA officials said there are no plans to “cancel” the mission of the two Mars Exploration Rovers, which have been on the Martian surface since 2004. An official told CNN that the cuts were being made to help balance overruns in the Mars Science Laboratory, which is set for launch next year. All three missions are managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.