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Don Savage
Headquarters, Washington, DC                      Aug. 20, 1999
(Phone:  202/358-1547)

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



The target landing zone for NASA's Mars Polar Lander -- a site located in mysterious layered terrain near the Martian South Pole -- will be unveiled in a press briefing on Wednesday, Aug. 25.

The Space Science Update will be held at 1 p.m. EDT in the James E. Webb Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E St. SW, Washington, DC.

Launched Jan. 3, Mars Polar Lander will set down gently on the red planet Dec. 3 for the start of a three-month mission to help scientists study the planet's climate history. Polar Lander was launched toward a California-sized area at about 75 degrees south latitude on Mars. Mission planners have been reviewing images and three-dimensional topographic measurements from NASA's orbiting Mars Global Surveyor mission to pick a safe and scientifically interesting spot to land.

Piggybacking on the Polar Lander are two basketball-sized aeroshells containing the Deep Space 2 microprobes. Part of NASA's New Millennium program, which tests risky new technologies for future science missions, these two grapefruit-sized penetrators will smash into Mars at about 400 mph and search for signs of water ice about 3 feet below the surface.

Briefers will include:

  • Dr. Richard Zurek, Mars Surveyor 1998 project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, CA

  • Dr. Sam Thurman, Mars Polar Lander flight operations manager at JPL

  • Dr. Suzanne Smrekar, Deep Space 2 project scientist at JPL

  • Moderator Joe Boyce, Mars Surveyor 1998 program scientist in the Office of Space Science at NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC

Mars Polar Lander and its companion mission, the Mars Climate Orbiter, make up the second wave of spacecraft in the long-term Mars Surveyor Program, which is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Office of Space Science. JPL's industrial partner in the development and operation of the Mars Global Surveyor, Polar Lander, and Climate Orbiter spacecraft is Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, CO. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.

The briefing will be carried live on NASA Television, which is available on transponder 9C of the GE-2 satellite at 85 degrees west longitude, vertical polarization, frequency 3880 MHz, audio of 6.8 MHz. Two-way question-and-answer capability will be available for news media at NASA centers.

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