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As mission ages, CU MarsLab on campus has a major new role Cornell Chronicle

Since the beginning of January, the Cornell team running the panoramic cameras, or Pancams, on the two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, has been largely functioning out of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). That’s where instructions are uplinked, or sent, to the two roving vehicles. But as the mission ages — in April NASA extended its life until at least mid-September — demand is growing for space at JPL for other missions, such as Deep Impact and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (Both missions also have Cornell involvement: the first to study the interior of a comet, the second to get even higher-resolution orbital data on Mars.) In addition, the Mars science team members need to get back to their universities. As a result, the MarsLab at Cornell is gradually taking on a new mission: actually generating the instructions for uplink directly to the two twin-lensed panoramic cameras atop each rover’s mast.