Ann Hutchison

Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX

(Phone: 281/483-5111)

Release: J00-14

New evidence that an ocean may once have existed on Mars will be among
this year’s topics of interest at the 31st annual Lunar and Planetary
Science Conference (LPSC), March 13-17, 2000. The conference, which is
chaired by Dr. Carl B. Agee of NASA and Dr. David C. Black of the Lunar
and Planetary Institute, will be held at the NASA Johnson Space Center
and the University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL).

One highlight of this yearís conference will be early results from the
Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft, which went into orbit
around the asteroid Eros on February 14. As the first spacecraft to
orbit an asteroid, the NEAR mission promises to answer fundamental
questions about the nature and origin of asteroids in the vicinity of
Earth’s orbit. These objects are of interest as the primary source of
large bodies that collide with Earth, greatly influencing the evolution
of the atmosphere and life on our planet. Early information, images and
data analysis from this mission will be presented by NEAR team members
during a special session of invited talks March 14.

Other presentations will focus on

results from the Galileo spacecraftís close fly-bys of
Jupiterís volcanic moon Io; new theories about the presence of
water on early Mars; latest results from the Mars Global
Surveyorís 2-year mapping mission; new views of the moon
; the martian surface as seen by Mars Pathfinder and Viking
; meteorites from the asteroids, the moon and Mars;
astrobiology and the origin(s) of life in the universe; impact
craters throughout the solar system

Oral presentations are scheduled all day Monday through Thursday, as
well as Friday morning in JSC’s Gilruth Center. Dr. John Wood, meteorite
researcher from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, will
give the Harold Masursky Lecture at a special session Monday afternoon.
His topic will be ìChondrites: Tight-Lipped Witnesses to the Beginning.’
Poster presentations are scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday evenings
from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at UHCL’s Bayou Building.

Additional information about conference events, including registration
and text of abstracts, can be found at the Lunar and Planetary Institute
website: Click on ‘meetings and conferences’.

News media should contact Pam Thompson by phone at 281/486-2175 with
questions or to schedule interviews with participants, or by e-mail