Elvia H. Thompson
Headquarters, Washington, DC
(Phone: 202/358-1600)


The Mars Program Independent Assessment Team, appointed by
NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin, returned to the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, CA, this week to continue its review of
the Agency’s program for the robotic exploration of Mars. The
team, chaired by Thomas Young, is tasked with examining NASA’s
approach to future missions to Mars in light of the recent loss of
Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander.

The team spent two and one-half days meeting with JPL’s senior
managers and program officials. This week’s trip focused on actions
taken by JPL in response to an internal review of management
practices and procedures and examination of the composition and
structure of future missions to Mars. In order to hear from a
larger number of engineers, scientists, and managers the team split
into small groups then reconvened at the end to share what each
member had learned.

“By hearing from more of the people who worked on these
projects, we are able to obtain a broader view of how business has
been conducted here at JPL,” said Young. “This gives us a better
understanding of the lessons learned from both the missions that
were successful and those that were not.”

Young added that JPL managers and technical experts at all
levels have been very cooperative with the team and more than
willing to share their opinions in a frank manner. “We are
beginning to get a clearer picture of the processes in place at
JPL, at Lockheed Martin and at NASA Headquarters,” Young said.

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. It is reviewing the science
objectives, budgets, schedules, management structure, and
procedures in place for each of these missions. The review is
being coupled with an assessment of how these factors affect
mission safety, reliability and success.

The Independent Assessment Team began its work on Jan. 7,
2000, and is scheduled to complete its review and present the NASA
Administrator with its findings in mid-March.