News this past week at http://spacescience.nasa.gov/

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An in-depth review of our Mars exploration program, released yesterday,
found significant flaws in formulation and execution led to the failures of
recent missions, and provides recommendations for the future exploration of
Mars. You can download the report if you like from
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/marsreports/marsreports.html . There’s also a HQ
press release about it at
ftp://ftp.hq.nasa.gov/pub/pao/pressrel/2000/00-046.txt .

You probably know that we’ve been getting the %@$#^# kicked out of us about
the recent Mars failures, and rightfully so. But ya know, there was one
little factoid that got thrown out at the press conference that I haven’t
seen written in a single news story: since 1992, this agency has launched
about $18 billion worth of space hardware, and about $500 million of it has
failed. That’s a success rate (per dollar) of about 97%. You’d think that
a factoid like that might tend to increase the light-to-heat ratio in this
debate, but I guess it doesn’t sell many newspapers…

——————-

IMAGE, our latest Faster-Better-Cheaper mission, was launched successfully
on March 25, and the spacecraft appears to be healthy. It’ll take a few
weeks for everything on the spacecraft to be turned on and checked out;
follow the news at http://pluto.space.swri.edu/IMAGE/

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This one is way cool: the leading team of planet-hunting astronomers have
crossed an important threshold in the detection of planets around other
stars, with the discovery of two planets that may be smaller in mass than
Saturn. The data is suggesting that Earth-sized planets may well be
plentiful in the universe. Folks, these guys are measuring the speed at
which stars are being tugged around by their planets, and thereby moving
relative to us, to an accuracy of a few meters per second — approximately
the speed of a bicyclist. I’m proud to say we are supporting them.

Press release, images and stuff at http://origins.stsci.edu/news/2000/01/
the team’s page at
http://www.physics.sfsu.edu/%7Egmarcy/planetsearch/planetsearch.html

——————-

Geologists have developed new theoretical calculations on how life might
have arisen on Earth, Mars and other celestial bodies from volcanic gases.
http://news-info.wustl.edu/feature/2000/Mar00-gases.html

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The most sensitive survey ever undertaken of the region in the Orion Nebula
where new stars are forming has revealed 13 “free-floating planets” as well
as more than one hundred very young brown dwarfs. News from the UK at
http://www.ras.org.uk/press/pn00-04.htm

——————-

Our High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager spacecraft — an international
mission to explore the basic physics of particle acceleration and energy
release in solar flares — has sustained substantial damage during
vibration testing. Launch will be delayed until 2001. Rats. Press release
at ftp://ftp.hq.nasa.gov/pub/pao/pressrel/2000/00-045.txt , HESSI page at
http://hesperia.gsfc.nasa.gov/hessi/

——————-

Our NEAR spacecraft has produced a couple of short movies of asteroid Eros.
See the NEAR Image of the Day entries for March 23 and 24 at
http://near.jhuapl.edu/iod/archive.html . Tumblin’ spud!

——————-

Due to safety concerns, we plan to send the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory
to a flaming demise in June. In 9 years of operations, CGRO has far
exceeded its initial mission requirements. Story at
ftp://ftp.hq.nasa.gov/pub/pao/pressrel/2000/00-044.txt , CGRO page at
http://cossc.gsfc.nasa.gov/cossc/

——————-

Astronomers using our Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer have found that an
anomalous x-ray pulsar, an odd and very rare breed of burned-out star that
flickers in X-ray light, can occasionally suffer “starquakes”. Story at
http://www.space.com/science/astronomy/xray_pulsar_000324.html

Cheers!

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