University scientists celebrate rover landing
Chicago scientists celebrated the new year at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., with a heavy agenda of extraterrestrial activities. On Saturday, Jan. 3, one of NASA’s twin Mars rovers, Spirit, safely landed in the Gusev Crater, where an instrument that uses a technique invented at the University will identify the chemical composition of Martian rocks and soil. This mosaic image taken by the navigation camera on the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit shows a 360-degree panoramic view of the rover on the surface of Mars. “This confirmation of safe landing took more than 10 minutes, and these were a very nerve-wracking 10-minutes,” said Thanasis Economou, Senior Scientist at the Enrico Fermi Institute and a member of the Mars rover science team. “Then, the signal appeared on the screen, and a pandemonium broke in the control room.” Joining Economou at JPL was Anthony Tuzzolino, Senior Scientist at the Enrico Fermi Institute, to monitor the performance of Chicago’s dust detector on a separate mission. The Stardust spacecraft, which carries the Chicago instrument, came within 149 miles of Comet Wild 2 on Friday, Jan. 2. The detector worked perfectly during the encounter.