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Douglas Isbell
NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC         December 7, 1998
(Phone: 202/358-1547)

George H. Diller
Kennedy Space Center, FL
(Phone: 407/867-2468)

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

RELEASE:  N98-70


The first of two upcoming launches of NASA's 1998 Mars Surveyor missions, and exciting scientific findings from the Agency's current Mars mission will be featured this week on NASA Television.

NASA's Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft is scheduled for launch aboard a Boeing Delta 2 launch vehicle on Thursday, December 10.

The day before this launch, on December 9, the lead scientist for the camera aboard the NASA spacecraft currently in orbit around the red planet, Mars Global Surveyor, will discuss the Top 10 images returned to Earth so far by that mission, including several new releases.

Today and tomorrow, the NASA TV Video File will feature replays of the first three-dimensional visualizations of the north pole of Mars, based on data from the laser altimeter aboard the Global Surveyor, released Sunday, December 6, at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. These data have enabled scientists to estimate the volume of its water ice cap with unprecedented precision, and to study its surface variations and the heights of clouds in the region for the first time.

The Mars Climate Orbiter has two launch opportunities on December 10. The first target opportunity is at 1:56:38 p.m. EST. A second opportunity at 3:02:23 p.m. EST is available if necessary. Liftoff will occur from Pad A at Launch Complex 17 on Cape Canaveral Air Station, FL.

When it first arrives at the red planet, Mars Climate Orbiter will be used primarily to support its companion Mars Polar Lander spacecraft, planned for launch on Jan. 3, 1999. After that, the Climate Orbiter's instruments will monitor the Martian atmosphere and image the planet's surface on a daily basis for one Martian year, the equivalent of two Earth years. During this time, the spacecraft will observe the circulation of atmospheric dust and water vapor, as well as characterize seasonal changes on the surface.

A prelaunch news conference is scheduled for Wednesday, December 9, at 11 a. m. EST in the NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) News Center auditorium and will be carried live on NASA TV. Following this briefing, the NASA TV Video File at Noon EST will feature animation and video footage of the Mars Climate Orbiter mission and the images from the press briefing to follow.

This 12:30 p.m. EST press briefing at KSC will feature the Top 10 images of Mars returned by the camera aboard Global Surveyor. Participants in this briefing will be Dr. Michael Malin, Principal Investigator for the camera, from Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, and Joe Boyce, 1998 Mars Surveyor Program Scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Those media without permanent accreditation who wish to cover the launch of Mars Climate Orbiter, including the prelaunch news conference, should send a letter of request to the NASA KSC News Center on news organization letterhead. It should include name and Social Security number or passport number. Letters should be faxed to 407/867-2692.

NASA Television is available on GE-2, transponder 9C, located at 85 degrees West longitude, with vertical polarization. Frequency is 3880.0 megahertz, with audio on 6.8 megahertz.

STS-88 mission events may preclude live TV coverage of some Mars Climate Orbiter launch activities; in that case, launch footage will be replayed as soon as mission events allow. Audio only of Mars Climate Orbiter events will also be available on the "V" circuits, which may be dialed directly at 407/867-1260, 407/867-7135, 407/867-4003, 407/867-4920.

The NASA KSC codaphone will carry Mars Climate Orbiter prelaunch status reports beginning on Monday, December 7, and may be dialed at 407/867-2525

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