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Doug Isbell/Don Savage
Headquarters, Washington, DC                November 22, 1999
(Phone: 202/358-1547)

Franklin O'Donnell
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA
(Phone: 818/354-5011)



NASA's Mars Polar Lander is due to set down under rocket power on layered, icy terrain near the south pole of Mars on December 3, with the first signal received on Earth that confirms the landing expected at 3:37 p.m. EST. The two Deep Space 2 microprobes that are piggybacking on the lander will impact the planet's surface at about this same time.

NASA TV coverage of this event starts with a series of prelanding news briefings that begin on Tuesday, November 30, at 1 p.m. EST. Daily coverage, including periods of live commentary, will be provided through Friday, December 10, if early mission events proceed as planned. Daily mission status briefings generally will occur at this same time, with live coverage of mission operations primarily in the late-evening and early-morning hours.

A detailed schedule of Mars mission briefings, periods of planned live commentary and related events will be posted and updated regularly on the following Internet sites:

The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) site also features links to the text press kit for the mission, digital image files and updated mission status reports.

The schedule for reception of pictures and other data from the lander is highly dependent on the spacecraft's state following landing -- particularly, how high a data rate the mission team can achieve using the lander's telecommunications system. For this reason, it is not possible to offer a firm schedule of when pictures and other data will be received and posted on the Internet. For general planning purposes, however, it is possible to note the earliest possible date for some items under an extremely best-case scenario.

The first 45-minute communications session after landing may include a low-resolution black-and-white image. Later sessions during the evening of December 3 should include further imagery, possibly including some from the lander's descent camera. Data from the Deep Space 2 microprobes are expected to be received Friday evening, December 3, and could be reported as soon as the news briefing at 2:30 a.m. EST on December 4.

The first sound from the surface of Mars via the lander's microphone could be released no earlier than Saturday, December 4, under a best-case scenario. A movie built up from pictures from the lander's descent imager may be released no earlier than early in the week of December 6-10. A 360-degree color panorama from the camera on the lander's deck may be released in approximately this same time frame.

Under a best-case scenario, the lander's robot arm could perform its first dig no earlier than late Tuesday evening, December 7. The first dig will probably occupy two evenings, with analysis of the soil sample performed on the second evening.

All of these events and data releases, however, could move later into the mission due to telecommunications factors or other conditions.

Media representatives wishing to cover the landing at JPL should apply for accreditation prior to November 29 via a letter on the news organization's letterhead, signed by a news editor or producer. Fill out the "Request for JPL Media Accreditation" application at the JPL Internet site above and fax it with your letter of assignment to the attention of Alison Ziats at 818/354- 4537, or mail to:

             JPL Media Relations Office
             4800 Oak Grove Dr.
             Mail Stop 186-120
             Pasadena, CA 91109

There is minimal direct overlap between key mission events on Mars Polar Lander and the STS-103 Space Shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope, under the current schedules for the two missions. Live coverage of some Mars Polar Lander robot arm activities likely will be broadcast on a separate satellite transponder, to be noted on the schedules posted at the above Internet sites.

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