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Orlando Figueroa And The Red Planet


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Of all the planets in earth’s solar system, the most fascinating for both scientists and dreamers alike is the one fourth closest to the sun, Mars — "The Red Planet." Could its presently harsh atmosphere ever have supported life? Recently, another in a series of probes was launched by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) to help answer that question.

Heading up the effort is a Puerto Rican, Dr. Orlando Figueroa. Speaking of his job as director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Project, mechanical engineer Figueroa says, "It’s the best job in the world. For me it’s a dream come true." This graduate of the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez oversees a team of thousands of scientists, engineers and program specialists in one of the Agency’s most ambitious projects, to determine if life every existed on the "Red Planet." The program’s long-range objective is to place humans into its presently hostile environment.

Recently, in the latest phase of an on-going project, Boeing Delta-2 rockets launched identical exploratory packages to Mars, separated by three weeks. In January 2004, after a seven-month voyage through the universe, the first will land at Gusev Crater and the second on the opposite side of the Martian landscape. Once there, the payload will emerge, consisting of specially built vehicles called "Rovers," that will traverse over a radius of several hundred yards, using special instruments to pick-up, bore into and scrutinize the crust of the Martian surface. Scientists hope that these specimens will reveal evidence of previous life on Mars.

In the accompanying video, Dr. Figueroa, shows us how the Rovers will accomplish their tasks.

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