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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

NASA Press Conference

Aired January 15, 2004 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to NASA. This is the Mars presser. As we told you, the rover has left its little launching pad, and it's rolled out onto the surface and it's taking new pictures.
Let's hear what the NASA engineers have to say.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... project manager for the Mars exploration rover mission. Jennifer Trosper, mission manager for surface operations. Kevin Burke, the lead mechanical engineer for egress. Chris Lewicki, flight director. And Joel Krajewski, the chief engineer for impact and egress.

(APPLAUSE)

Dr. Elachi.

DR. CHARLES ELACHI, NASA: Yes, good morning. Less than 24 hours ago, President Bush committed our nation for a sustained human and a robotic program of exploration. But we at Nasdaq, we move awfully fast. So, in less than 24 hours, we are doing our first step.

I can tell you that Spirit is now ready to start its mission of exploration and discovery. We have six wheels in the dirt, as you can see -- or we'll be showing shortly up there. Mars now is our sandbox, and we are ready to play and learn.

I have to tell you, I've never seen so many people excited or excited about just seeing two tracks in the dirt.

Also, yesterday, the vice president came to thank on behalf of all of the American people the team which has made this thing possible. And I have to tell you, you had to watch the mission operation earlier today to see the passion, the dedication, the ingenuity and the daring of this team, you know, have brought, you know, to this program.

I want to tell you, last night, after I left here, I -- you know, before I went for my two hours of sleep, I looked up into the sky and looked at Mars, and I'm still awed that we have a rover, you know, on that planet. And I was thinking to myself that for centuries, where millions of people who have looked up, the same I looked up, and they were wondering what's up there. But we know, you know, what is up there.

Just think about that. You know, there's a difference, you know, between the people who have been wondering for centuries and here our generation knows exactly what's up there. And that's not because we -- we went there not because we have to go there, but because we wanted, you know, to be there. Just think of the endless possibilities that this team and this generation is going to leave as a legacy for generations of the future, and that is through efforts of this dream team, and I want to congratulate each and every one of them.

(APPLAUSE)

And now, I'm going to introduce Peter Theisinger, who I'm sure you know. He's so happy with his new car.

DR. PETER THEISINGER, NASA: Thank you, Charles.

Two weeks ago tomorrow, I sat in this same place, talking to you all about things like EDL communication and whether we would hear from the rover in 24 hours, and all of those kinds of things. And now, we've got six wheels on the dirt. It really doesn't get any better than this, but it will. It will.

It has taken an immense effort by an immense number of people to get us to where we are today, you know, all the way back in the development phase, when we had problems.

I'm sure you've seen the documentaries in the last couple of weeks that have played on NASA TV and other venues about the issues that had to be solved by a great number of people, who since have moved on to other projects here at JPL -- the test team, the launch crew in Florida that got us up, from the Boeing Delta people, the crews teams that got us to the planet and went through all of the sequencing, while Jennifer and her team were preparing for impact to egress, and the surface mission and Rob's team was preparing us for EDL, through the EDL phase, and now impact to egress, and we've got six wheels on the dirt, as you've seen.

It's just an incredible effort by an incredible number of people -- the best that we have. They really are fantastic.

And, as Charles said, there's a lot of them (UNINTELLIGIBLE) around you tonight, who came in on their on time, probably wiped out their Mars clock for two weeks in order to be there at that momentous occasion. And if they're like me, they will go home and will crash quickly.

And so, before I hand it over to Jennifer to describe tonight's activities as a culmination of the last couple of weeks, I'd like to point out to you that we get to do this all again in nine days -- Jennifer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You like it so much, huh?

THEISINGER: Yes, I like it so much.

DR. JENNIFER TROSPER, NASA: OK. Well, in keeping with tradition, I think... (APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're breaking every rule up here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You understand that this is apple cider, right?

ELACHI: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

TROSPER: Well, you can (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I'll pass it down to you (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes.

TROSPER: I have (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Well, the last time we had champagne here was EDL night, and I think we were all just extremely excited that the entry, descent and landing process went so well. And we were so, so greatly encouraged by the success of that day.

COSTELLO: All right, we're going to step away as they drink their champagne and talk more about the good news out of NASA that the rover on Mars is on the ground, taking new pictures. It took at least two new pictures today. We're going to show you those pictures a little later. One is of the rover itself, and that was done for the benefit of the engineers.

But again, the rover's on Martian soil, and it's heading towards a crater, and it's hoping to pick up soil samples to find that there was once water on the surface of Mars and life. It's just amazing.

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