Written by Andrew J. Horne
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Topics: NASA, Scientists

Wednesday, 9 June 2004

image for NASA Plans Risky Rover Descent Into Detroit
A Risky Mission For All Mankind

DETROIT- The Mars Rover, Opportunity, is expected to roll into a stadium-sized pothole in Michigan Avenue this week from which it may never escape, NASA scientists said, a chance they willing to take in the interests of inner city exploration.

"NASA has made a careful decision. The potential science benefits of sending Opportunity into the poorly-maintained ghetto are well worth the calculated risk the rover might not be able to climb back out," Firouz Naderi of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said on Tuesday.

"Inside the crater-sized crack waits the possibility for compelling scientific investigations into urban sprawl," he said.

The scientists believe Opportunity will be able to descend the sides of the hole, found right next to the Popeye's Chicken, carry out experiments on soil of particular interest to the team, and then get back out without suffering too many gunshots.

But they concede that the six-wheeled rover, which is operating in a "bonus period" beyond its planned three-month lifetime, might lose traction and become stuck in the cigarette butts, chicken bones, and human waste found within the pothole.

"After five months of having accomplished more than we had any right to expect from 6 AAA radio shack batteries, we still have gas in the tank and we are ready to go," Naderi said.

Meanwhile Opportunity's twin robotic craft, Spirit, has found evidence of mild sauce below the surface of Chicago, scientists said, which suggests that Taco Bell existed at some point in the city's past.

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