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Douglas Isbell/Elvia Thompson
Headquarters, Washington, DC                 January 13, 2000
(Phone:  202/358-1600)

Status Report


The Mars Program Independent Assessment Team, appointed by the NASA Administrator to review the agency's approach to the robotic exploration of Mars in the wake of the loss of Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander, has concluded a two and a half day meeting at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.

The Assessment Team heard detailed reports from JPL senior management about the Laboratory's overall Mars Program management structure and about the history of the Mars Program. They also heard from members of several Mars projects, including key people from the Mars Polar Lander and Mars Climate Orbiter projects.

"Our team is at the beginning of our fact-finding mission. We are asking a lot of questions and JPL is cooperating by giving us detailed answers," said Thomas Young, chair of the Assessment Team. "Our job is to look at NASA's overall approach to the robotic exploration of Mars."

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.

During the next few weeks, the team will be meeting at Lockheed Martin in Denver and at NASA Headquarters and will return to JPL for follow-up discussions.

The JPL Mars Polar Lander Failure Review Board, chaired by John Casani, is meeting concurrently and will present their findings to the Assessment Team. Both the JPL Review Board and the NASA Assessment Team are due to issue their final reports by mid-March 2000.

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