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Mars Launch Online:
remote audience participated in a rocket launch

On January 3,1999, a NASA rocket blasted off from the Cape Canaveral Air Station in Florida. Onboard the rocket were spacecraft destined for Mars. We brought you live, interactive coverage from the launch site before liftoff.

A series of Mars experts shared their insights about the missions, science, launch and fun of Mars exploration. The remote cyber-audience asked questions and shared their thoughts. The following experts participated:

  • Geoff Briggs, Director, Center for Mars Exploration - NASA Ames; NASA's overall plan for exploring Mars
  • Donna Shirley, Former Manager, Mars Exploration Program; putting together a space mission: building teams, setting goals, building and flying spacecraft
  • Randy Blue, Electronics Engineer for Deep Space 2 - JPL; details about Deep Space 2, a mission to test technology
  • Bruce Jakosky, Professor of Geology - University of Colorado; the science of studying Mars: what we hope to learn from these missions

rocket lauching

The launch on January 3 included two different missions:
  • Mars Polar Lander
  • Deep Space 2

Mars Polar Lander will land on the red planet, much as Mars Pathfinder did in 1997. But instead of inflating airbags to bounce on the surface as it lands, Mars Polar Lander will use retro rockets to slow its descent. Instead of a rover, Mars Polar Lander is equipped with a robotic arm that will dig into the soil near the planet's south pole in search of subsurface water.

The lander will also conduct experiments on soil samples acquired by the robotic arm and dumped into small ovens, where the samples will be heated to drive off water and carbon dioxide. Surface temperatures, winds, pressures and amount of dust in the atmosphere will be measured on a daily basis while a small microphone records the sounds of wind gusts or mechanical operations onboard the spacecraft.

About 10 minutes before touchdown, the lander will release two Deep Space 2 microprobes. Once released, these rugged darts will collect atmospheric data before they crash at about 400 miles per hour and bury themselves into the Martian surface. The main purpose of the probes is to flight-test new technologies to enable future science missions - demonstrating innovative approaches to entering a planet's atmosphere, surviving a crash-impact and penetrating below a planet's surface. As a secondary goal, the probes will search for water ice under Mars' surface.

More information about the missions are available from NASA's web pages:

Lesson plans for teaching about Mars are available.


  • Archive of the Live Event:
    • RealVideo clip provided by INTERVU.
      Please note that the first few minutes of the archive were lost, so this clip starts in mid-sentence with Geoff Briggs.

    • An archive of the chat room has been provided so you can review the questions asked during the event. Archived Chat.

    • Online survey: At NASA's Quest Project we provide our online projects and content for free. All we ask from you is a little information. Please take a few minutes to give us some feedback on the LTC event you have just attended. This information helps us improve what we offer, as well as, provides valuable information to be reported to our internal funders.


  • Test the multimedia tools used to experience this event:
    • Download the RealPlayer. (The application program that allows you to hear or watch the events.)
    • If you are unsure of which technologies your connectivity
      and desktop platform will support, you may want to review the
      Technical Overview for this event.
    • You may also want to Test The Technologies before the event.

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