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Spirit Soars Towards Mars
by Michelle Mock

A group of boys waiting for their FastPass "boarding call" to catch a flight on Star Tours Endor Express™ received an unexpected treat when they chose to explore the NASA exhibit at Disneyland's American Space Experience™.  They were among the Disneyland guests who watched as NASA TV broadcast the launch of NASA's latest mission to Mars.

The exhibit features a life size model of the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) surrounded at its base by artist's renditions of the launch, landing and exploration.  Suspended from the ceiling above the rover model are several television screens that usually display realistic digital animation of the mission.  On June 10th, the screens were displaying live NASA television and visitors were able to listen in as the launch progressed towards countdown.

The first of two Mars Exploration Rovers (MER), recently named "Spirit", is now on its way to a planned landing on Mars scheduled for January 4th 2004.  A second rover, named "Opportunity", will launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida later this month.  The two NASA spacecraft will be joining the European Space Agency's Mars Express, whose "Beagle" lander is scheduled to touch down on December 25th.

New and improved animation, by digital artist Dan Maas, was shown during the broadcast.  For the last two or three months, Dan has been working on adding new graphics for a much more detailed rover.  This day he was taking a break to watch an event that previously was only the dream of many scientists and engineers, captured through his graphics for others to see.  Cameras mounted on the Delta rocket captured the jettison of the booster rockets during the live event.  It was remarkable how much real life lived up to the "artist's rendition".

After two weather related delays, Spirit lifted off in a truly "picture perfect" launch.  As it soared towards Mars, the men and women who made this possible were experiencing emotions much like that of new parents.  Their "baby" is off on an experience of a lifetime.  Go Spirit, go!!!

"We are living in an era
of dreams coming true."

~ Walter Elias Disney


[Disneyland closed the doors on the American Space Experience (NASA Exhibit) on October 26th 2003.]

Send your questions about Mars or Disneyland's American Space Experience™ to: Imagiverse - Ask The Expert

- 10 June 2003

Photo Credit: All images courtesy of NASA and the Walt Disney Company.  Photographs were taken at the Disneyland American Space Experience™ (NASA exhibit) during the NASA TV launch broadcast.

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Last Updated:
5 November 2003

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