Space shuttle Columbia crew memorialized on Mars
NASA NEWS RELEASE
Posted: January 6, 2004
NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe today announced plans to name the landing site of the Mars Spirit Rover in honor of the astronauts who died in the tragic accident of the space shuttle Columbia in February. The area in the vast flatland of the Gusev Crater where Spirit landed this weekend will be called the Columbia Memorial Station.
The plaque is mounted on the back of Spirit's high-gain antenna, a disc-shaped tool used for communicating directly with Earth. The plaque is aluminum and approximately six inches in diameter. The memorial plaque was attached March 28, 2003, at the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Chris Voorhees and Peter Illsley, Mars Exploration Rover engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., designed the plaque.
Spirit successfully landed on Mars Jan. 3. It will spend the next three months exploring the barren landscape to determine if Mars was ever watery and suitable to sustain life. Spirit's twin, Opportunity, will reach Mars on Jan. 25 to begin a similar examination of a site on the opposite side of the planet.
NASA has approved an extended mission for the Mars Exploration Rovers, handing them up to five months of overtime assignments as they finish their three-month prime mission.
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