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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Making Mar(s)velous cameras

After years of planning and preparation, the employees of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory — Bob Menzies included — had to endure one of the tensest times of their lives.

On Jan. 3 the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit was in its entry, descending, landing phase —
after its six-month odyssey of nearly 303 million miles — when it went completely out of contact with its creators back at the Pasadena, Calif., facility (http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/home).

But when Spirit later sent a beacon of its safe arrival to an orbiter above the red planet, Menzies, a member of Hill Avenue Grace Lutheran Church, Pasadena, joined the others at the lab in a frenzied celebration. The world quickly joined in the excitement after seeing televised images of Mars, taken by cameras designed by the lab department for which Menzies is an assistant manager.

"It was an incredible moment," Menzies said. "We started receiving these electronic signals that are converted into photographs. And the cameras are capable of creating a seamless panorama of the area around the rover."

Menzies spent several years working in the department that develops atmospheric measurement instruments before moving to the section that handles observational systems, such as the 18 cameras on the two Mars rovers that have sent the thousands of breathtaking photos.

"We are blessed with the ability to reach out and see so much of God's creation," he said. "Last year we also launched a satellite that will allow us to see all the way to near the edge of what we know as the universe. And even though I'm a physicist, it's easy for me to look at these photographs and see God's hand at work."


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