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Elvia H. Thompson
Headquarters, Washington, DC                    January 21, 2000
(Phone: 202/358-1696)


The Mars Program Independent Assessment Team (MPIAT) continued its review of NASA's Mars missions with a visit to Lockheed Martin Astronautics in Denver, CO, this week. Last week the team visited NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, CA.

"At this point, we are talking with as many key players in these missions as possible," said team chairman Thomas Young. "We have heard from officials at NASA Headquarters and JPL," said Young. "This visit with Lockheed Martin's engineers, scientists and managers gives us insight into the contractor's processes used in implementing the Mars '98 missions and the successful Mars Global Surveyor."

The team is asking NASA and contractor personnel tough questions about how these missions were conducted, to identify any changes that may be needed to assure mission success in the future. Young added that the team is still in the fact-finding mode. "It is much too early to draw any conclusions," he said. "We want to have a good understanding of the processes that were used in each of these programs before we make any recommendations about changes."

The team's charter is to 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. This includes evaluation of budgets, content, schedule, management structure, and scientific organization of these missions to determine how these roles and responsibilities are related to mission safety, reliability and success.

The team began its work on Jan. 7, 2000, and is scheduled to complete its review and advise NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin of its findings in mid-March. JPL manages NASA's robotic exploration of Mars for the Office of Space Science, Washington, DC. Lockheed Martin Astronautics is the prime contractor for NASA's missions to Mars.

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