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Astrobot Sandy Moondust Begins her Journey to Mars

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
07/08/2003

CONTACT:
Mat Kaplan
Email: mat.kaplan@planetary.org
Phone: +1-626-793-5100

Astrobot Sandy Moondust launched for Mars Monday with NASA's Opportunity rover, riding on a DVD provided by The Planetary Society and the LEGO Company. She joins fellow Astrobot Biff Starling who is already en route to Mars with Spirit, the rover mission that launched one month ago.

Bolted to each of the spacecraft is a mini-DVD provided by The Planetary Society to carry to the surface of Mars the names of 4 million people collected by NASA. The Astrobots, representations of robotic minifigures suited up for space, appear as part of the structure that mounts the mini-DVD onto each spacecraft.

Young people and adults alike can enjoy the adventure vicariously through the Astrobot Diaries - e-mailed correspondence between Biff, Sandy and Astrobot ground control -- on The Planetary Society's website. The website also includes Astrobot Corps Media Advisories featuring more background on the miniature explorers.

"All systems are go - this Astrobot is bound for Mars!" proclaimed Moondust in today's media advisory on the web.

Bruce Betts, The Planetary Society's Director of Projects, also serves as Chief of the Astrobot Corps.

"Biff and Sandy are not only developing distinct personalities as the mission evolves," laughed Betts, "but they are also gaining a following who speculate on - and spread rumors about -- the two intrepid adventurers and the Astrobot Corps. I am as curious as everyone else to see what will happen next!"

The regularly posted Web diaries intersperse humor with scientific and engineering facts to engage kids and the general public in the joys of exploring Mars. Biff and Sandy will explore their spacecraft and, eventually, the planet's surface.

The diaries or portions of the diaries will appear in four places: in full at The Planetary Society's web site; as titles and summaries at the LEGO; as short versions in LEGO Magazine; and as excerpts in the Society's member publication, The Planetary Report.

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