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Public Statements

Recognizing and Commending Achievements of NASA, The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Cornell U. in Conducting the Mars Exploration Rover Mission

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


RECOGNIZING AND COMMENDING ACHIEVEMENTS OF NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION, THE JET PROPULSION LABORATORY, AND CORNELL UNIVERSITY IN CONDUCTING THE MARS EXPLORATION ROVER MISSION -- (House of Representatives - January 21, 2004)

Mr. ROHRABACHER. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to the resolution (H. Res. 490) recognizing and commending the achievements of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Cornell University in conducting the Mars Exploration Rover mission, and recognizing the importance of space exploration.

The Clerk read as follows:

H. Res. 490

Whereas since its inception in 1958 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has achieved extraordinary scientific and technological feats;

Whereas the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's exploration of space has taught us to view Earth, ourselves, and the universe in a new way, opening our eyes and minds to great and new possibilities;

Whereas for over 40 years the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has led the world in the robotic exploration of the solar system, commanding the first United States unmanned missions to the Moon, Venus, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and most recently, the edge of our solar system;

Whereas the Jet Propulsion Laboratory began the space age for the United States in 1958 with the successful development and launch of the Explorer 1, the first United States satellite;

Whereas the Jet Propulsion Laboratory conducted the first interplanetary mission, in which the Mariner 2 spacecraft arrived at Venus in December 1962;

Whereas over 100 years ago Russian astrophysicist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky asked, "to observe Mars from a distance of several tens of kilometers, to land on its satellite or even on its surface, what could be more fantastic?";

Whereas the Jet Propulsion Laboratory fulfilled Konstantin Tsiolkovsky's vision when it navigated the Viking mission, developed the Viking Orbiter, and in 1976 successfully operated the Viking 1 and 2 robot landers on Mars, the first missions to land a spacecraft safely on the surface of another planet;

Whereas more than 26 years after its launch in 1977, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Voyager 1, which unlocked the mysteries of the outer planets of our solar system, continues to expand our understanding of the farthest reaches of our solar system;

Whereas the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Pathfinder successfully landed on the Martian surface on July 4, 1997, launching the first United States free-roving exploration of another planet and inspiring a new generation of children to dream of the heavens;

Whereas after a journey of nearly seven years the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Cassini-Huygens spacecraft will enter Saturn's orbit and begin to explore the solar system's second largest planet on July 1, 2004, and subsequently dispatch Huygens, a European-built probe, to the surface of Titan, Saturn's largest moon;

Whereas the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Stardust spacecraft, having traveled more than 3,000,000,000 miles, will return to Earth on January 15, 2006, with the first extraterrestrial materials from beyond the orbit of the Moon;

Whereas the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity were launched on June 10, 2003, and July 7, 2003, respectively, on missions to search for evidence indicating that Mars once held conditions hospitable to life;

Whereas Cornell University has led the development of the five science instruments carried by the two Rovers, is leading a science team consisting of 150 preeminent astronomers and engineers in the science investigation for the Mars mission, and is playing a leading role in both the operation of the two Rovers and the processing and analysis of the images and other data sent back to Earth;

Whereas the Rovers' landing sites were selected on the basis of intensive study of orbital data collected by the Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Pathfinder missions;

Whereas Spirit's landing site, formerly known as Gusev Crater and renamed Columbia Memorial Station, is thought to have once contained a large lake and may hold water-laid sediments that preserve important records of the lake environment, the sediments' highlands origins, and the sediments' river trip;

Whereas Opportunity's landing site, the Meridiani Planum, contains exposed deposits of a mineral that usually forms under watery conditions;

Whereas each Rover will conduct a three-month scientific study of the geologic records at the sites and evaluate whether those conditions would have been suitable for life;

Whereas each 384-pound Rover, roughly the size of a golf cart, traveled approximately 300,000,000 miles to reach Mars;

Whereas the craft carrying each Rover reaches speeds nearing 12,000 miles per hour when entering the Mars atmosphere before decelerating to a vertical stop in just over six minutes;

Whereas, during the period between entry into the Mars atmosphere and the Rovers' landing, over one dozen intricate operations need to be performed perfectly at just the right point for the Rovers to survive;

Whereas Spirit successfully completed entry, descent, and landing on January 3, 2004, at 11:35 p.m. eastern standard time, and within hours was beaming photographs of the Martian surface back to Earth;

Whereas Spirit is to be joined on the surface of Mars by its twin, Opportunity, on January 24, 2004; and
Whereas the engineers, scientists, and technicians of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have played a vital role in the Nation's space program and set an example for the rest of us to follow: Now therefore be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives-

(1) commends the engineers, scientists, and technicians of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Cornell University for their years of effort leading up to the successful entry, descent, landing, and operation of the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit on the Martian surface on January 3, 2004;

(2) recognizes the importance to the Nation and to humanity of the exploration of space; and

(3) honors the achievements of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Cornell University in expanding our comprehension of the universe and fulfilling the human need to explore and understand.

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Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.

Mr. Speaker, for thousands of years people have looked to the heavens and wondered what was up there, what were the dots of light scattered on the hemisphere of the night sky, what is our place in all of this.

The Moon, the planets, and the stars became part of ancient religions. Heroes were immortalized as constellations. Planets, whose irregular movements and brightness set them apart from the stars, were named after gods. Celestial events foretold the death of kings; they augured victory in war.

But for our ancestors, the changing sky also had a practical effect. For millennia, the movements of the Moon and stars guided the rhythms of human life; they told people when to plant and when to harvest. Wars were planned based on the phases of the Moon.

Even as they wondered, planted, harvested, and fought in keeping with the seasons, people dreamed of visiting these other worlds, of expanding humanity's realm, of satisfying the human yearning to explore. The telescope, which Galileo first turned to the heavens in 1609, changed our view of the cosmos. The myriad points of light began to resolve themselves into planets with moons, galaxies, nebulae, and clusters of stars. The universe, which had seemed static, was revealed as a place of infinite distance and incredible dynamism. Our view of space and of ourselves was changed forever.

It would be another 450 years before human beings could begin to take our first forays from the protective cocoon of the Earth. Throughout that time, telescopes grew larger and more powerful; astronomers learned more about our solar system, our galaxy, and the tens of millions of other galaxies throughout the universe. Still, even as the Moon and our nearby planetary neighbors tantalized us, they seemed hopelessly out of reach.

With the development of large rockets after World War II, humans were finally able to escape the Earth's gravity and venture into space. During the past half century, from the grapefruit-sized Explorer I, which was America's first satellite, to the International Space Station now being built 200 miles above us, we have begun to learn to operate in the harsh environs of space.

Throughout its existence, America's space program has operated on dual tracks. On the one hand, we have stressed human space flight, which is costly, often dangerous. With the exception of Apollo lunar landing missions, humans have not ventured beyond the relative safety of low-Earth orbit. The other track we have followed is the robotic exploration of our solar system, using spacecraft that are impervious to the harsh conditions of space and unaffected by the enormous distances necessary to explore our planetary neighbors.

Our unmanned space probes, from the Ranger and Surveyor craft that paved the way for Apollo, to the Voyager spacecraft that explored the outer planets and are still continuing to send back data even as they leave the solar system, have increased our comprehension beyond anything even contemplated half a century ago.

On Mars, we have witnessed dust storms on Olympus Mons, the largest mountain in our solar system. We have peered through Venus' clouds at its broiling surface. We have discovered new moons and ring systems around the outer planets. And as we speak, a small spacecraft bearing dust from a comet is zooming back towards the Earth and will parachute into Utah on January 15, 2006.

This summer, the Cassini spacecraft will enter the orbit of Saturn and will dispatch a small probe called Huygens to explore the atmosphere of Saturn's largest moon, Titan.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, managed by the California Institute of Technology, has designed, built, and controlled all of these programs. JPL has been the pioneer of our exploration of the solar system from the beginning of our space program. Earlier I mentioned JPL's Explorer I, America's first satellite. At the time it was launched, the United States has fallen behind the Soviet Union in the space race, and several other attempts at getting an American Sputnik into orbit had ended in fiery explosions on the launch pad. Not only did Explorer I salvage our pride, but the tiny satellite discovered the Van Allen radiation belts that circle the Earth.

Every American space probe that has visited another planet was managed by JPL. Through the wonders of technology, we have zoomed by Jupiter with Voyager, witnessed a Martian sunset with Viking, and rolled across the surface of Mars with Sojourner.

Whom do we have to thank for unlocking the wonders of our solar system, for providing brilliant three- dimensional images of the Martian surface, and for making us desire even great discoveries? For this, we must thank the women and men of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. Each day, under the leadership of Dr. Charles Elachi, the employees of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory work tirelessly to develop and manage America's robotic exploration of space.

Mr. Speaker, they have done it again. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory has brought America back to Mars. I am proud to join with my distinguished colleague and neighbor, the chairman of the Committee on Rules, the gentleman from California (Mr. Dreier), in introducing this resolution honoring the men and women of NASA, and especially the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, whose years of effort paid off so spectacularly when the Mars exploration rover Spirit landed on January 3.

Mr. Speaker, led by principal investigator, Steve Squyres, Jet Propulsion Laboratory employees like Peter Theisinger, Richard Cook, Rob Manning, Jennifer Trosper, Mark Adler, Jim Erickson, Matt Wallace, Joy Crisp, Joel Krajewski, Jason Willis, Jim Donaldson, and Jan Chodas have worked around the clock since Spirit's arrival on Mars.

Spirit, the first of JPL's rovers to land on Mars, and Spirit's twin, Opportunity, which is scheduled to touchdown on January 24, will conduct a 3-month scientific study to evaluate whether conditions at one time have been suitable for life on Mars. Equipped with cameras, spectrometers, and a grinder, these robotic explorers are poised to unlock the mysteries of Mars. The breadth of their discoveries is yet unknown, but our confidence in their abilities and the ability of the scientists at JPL, who now live not according to the cycles of their fellow Earthlings but in keeping with the Martian day, is sky high.

Mr. Speaker, Spirit's landing is another milestone in our exploration of the solar system. Let us take a moment to reflect on this occasion and honor those who made it possible. For tomorrow. Our thirst is renewed and our exploration continues.

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