Doug Isbell/Don Savage

Headquarters, Washington, DC

(Phone: 202/358-1547)

Franklin O’Donnell

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA

(Phone: 818/354-5011)



NASA’s Mars Polar Lander is due to set down under rocket
power on layered, icy terrain near the south pole of Mars on
December 3, with the first signal received on Earth that confirms
the landing expected at 3:37 p.m. EST. The two Deep Space 2
microprobes that are piggybacking on the lander will impact the
planet’s surface at about this same time.

NASA TV coverage of this event starts with a series of
prelanding news briefings that begin on Tuesday, November 30, at 1
p.m. EST. Daily coverage, including periods of live commentary,
will be provided through Friday, December 10, if early mission
events proceed as planned. Daily mission status briefings
generally will occur at this same time, with live coverage of
mission operations primarily in the late-evening and early-morning

A detailed schedule of Mars mission briefings, periods of
planned live commentary and related events will be posted and
updated regularly on the following Internet sites:

The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) site also features
links to the text press kit for the mission, digital image files
and updated mission status reports.

The schedule for reception of pictures and other data from
the lander is highly dependent on the spacecraft’s state following
landing — particularly, how high a data rate the mission team can
achieve using the lander’s telecommunications system. For this
reason, it is not possible to offer a firm schedule of when
pictures and other data will be received and posted on the
Internet. For general planning purposes, however, it is possible
to note the earliest possible date for some items under an
extremely best-case scenario.

The first 45-minute communications session after landing may
include a low-resolution black-and-white image. Later sessions
during the evening of December 3 should include further imagery,
possibly including some from the lander’s descent camera. Data
from the Deep Space 2 microprobes are expected to be received
Friday evening, December 3, and could be reported as soon as the
news briefing at 2:30 a.m. EST on December 4.

The first sound from the surface of Mars via the lander’s
microphone could be released no earlier than Saturday, December 4,
under a best-case scenario. A movie built up from pictures from
the lander’s descent imager may be released no earlier than early
in the week of December 6-10. A 360-degree color panorama from
the camera on the lander’s deck may be released in approximately
this same time frame.

Under a best-case scenario, the lander’s robot arm could
perform its first dig no earlier than late Tuesday evening,
December 7. The first dig will probably occupy two evenings, with
analysis of the soil sample performed on the second evening.

All of these events and data releases, however, could move
later into the mission due to telecommunications factors or other

Media representatives wishing to cover the landing at JPL
should apply for accreditation prior to November 29 via a letter
on the news organization’s letterhead, signed by a news editor or
producer. Fill out the “Request for JPL Media Accreditation”
application at the JPL Internet site above and fax it with your
letter of assignment to the attention of Alison Ziats at 818/354-
4537, or mail to:

JPL Media Relations Office

4800 Oak Grove Dr.

Mail Stop 186-120

Pasadena, CA 91109

There is minimal direct overlap between key mission events on
Mars Polar Lander and the STS-103 Space Shuttle mission to service
the Hubble Space Telescope, under the current schedules for the
two missions. Live coverage of some Mars Polar Lander robot arm
activities likely will be broadcast on a separate satellite
transponder, to be noted on the schedules posted at the above
Internet sites.