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Douglas Isbell
Headquarters, Washington, DC                 December 17, 1999
(Phone:  202/358-1753)

RELEASE:  99-147


A. Thomas Young has been named by NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin to chair the Mars Program Independent Assessment Team which will review the agency's approach to robotic exploration of Mars in the wake of the recent loss of the Mars Polar Lander mission.

Young retired as executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Corp. in 1995. During his career, Young has managed numerous complex, technically challenging programs, including serving as mission director of the 1976 NASA Viking landings on Mars. Young was director of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, from 1980 to 1982, and then joined Martin Marietta Corp. in 1982 as vice president of aerospace research and engineering. He was named president and chief operating officer of Martin Marietta in 1990.

The team will evaluate several recent successful and unsuccessful NASA missions to deep space, including Mars Pathfinder, Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Climate Orbiter, Mars Polar Lander, Deep Space 1 and Deep Space 2. It will analyze the budgets, content, schedule, management structure and scientific organization of these missions. It will then assess how these roles and responsibilities are related to mission safety, reliability and success.

The assessment team will also review proposed revisions to NASA's existing Mars exploration program architecture as options are developed by a group at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA.

The team will report their findings to the NASA administrator by mid-March 2000. Other members of the board will be established shortly.

"I have asked Tom Young as the leader of this team to dig as deep as he can, ask as many questions as possible, and to operate in a completely independent environment," Goldin said. "He will have access to every document, every employee, and every NASA resource. We will be open and non-defensive. We will listen and learn.

"We have had a string of successes, but we've also had a few failures and we must learn from both. This independent review team will provide us with some fundamental guidance about how to continue our bold program for exploring the solar system, and how to make it even better."

The investigation into the likely cause of the apparent failure of the Mars Polar Lander mission will be conducted by an internal peer review at JPL and submitted to the Mars assessment team for their review.

Mars Polar Lander and Mars Climate Orbiter are part of a series of missions in a long-term program of Mars exploration managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, DC. JPL's industrial partner is Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, CO. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.

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