Initial science data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, detailed images of Saturn’s icy moons and results from a deliberate crash on the moon highlight the 38th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference March 12-16 in Houston.

The conference will include presentations on the latest findings from these missions, as well as an update on findings from NASA’s Stardust spacecraft that returned to Earth in 2006 with particles from comet Wild 2. Leading scientists from around the world will attend to discuss these and other topics at the South Shore Harbour Resort and Conference Center.

Media may register to attend. For registration information and a complete list of conference events, visit:

Data from recent missions continues to offer space scientists worldwide new information and imagery to study. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the latest mission to arrive at Mars, began returning data last November, providing higher-resolution imagery than has been previously obtained from orbit. Cassini’s tour of Saturn has revealed a wealth of detail about Titan and unique insights into the planet’s icy satellites, showing them to be more geologically active than hinted at by Voyager. And Europe’s first lunar mission, SMART-1, ended with a bang last September when the probe was directed to crash into the moon.

"This continues to be an exciting era for planetary scientists. Information from the diversity of missions returning new data every day complements the continuing discoveries in the planetary science research disciplines," said Eileen Stansbery, deputy director of the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Directorate at NASA?s Johnson Space Center. ?This year?s conference provides much insight into the way the scientific community pulls diverse research disciplines and missions together to provide a framework for understanding our solar system and the bodies of which it is made."

The conference schedule includes:

— A special session on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. CDT March 13. The session will highlight initial science results from the mission.

— An overview of the newest results from the European Space Agency’s SMART-1 mission will be presented at 8:30 a.m. March 13. SMART-1 is the first in the program of ESA’s Small Missions for Advanced Research and Technology. It has performed science on the moon.

— The latest views on the formation of Saturn’s icy moons derived from Cassini’s tour of the Saturn system will be presented during a special session, "Volcanism and Tectonics on Saturnian Satellites," scheduled for 1:30 p.m. March 13.

–Two sessions will provide details on scientific analyses of the comet Wild 2 samples returned to Earth in January 2006 aboard NASA’s Stardust spacecraft. "Stardust: Wild 2 Revealed" will be held at 8:30 a.m. March 14. "Stardust: Mainly Mineralogy" is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. March 15.

The conference is put on by the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), in partnership with the Johnson Space Center, as part of a cooperative agreement with NASA.

LPI is managed by the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), a national, nonprofit consortium of universities chartered in 1969 by the National Academy of Sciences at the request of NASA. USRA operates programs and institutes focused on research and education in most of the disciplines engaged in space-related science and engineering. Institutional membership in USRA now stands at 100 leading research universities. More information about USRA can be found at More information about LPI can be found at

For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit: