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NPR's All Things Considered
Broadcast 07/12/1999, Story 2

Scientists across the country are expressing disappointment over the apparent loss of the mars lander

Researchers say the mission's failure will hinder efforts to understand martian history and climate and could slow the pace of future planetary exploration n. p. r.'s david baron has that story last friday when the poll and there was supposed to touch down gently near the martian soil school scientists of the lunar and planetary institute in houston gathered around the t. v. and watched excitedly while nasa waiting for a signal today the movie is global

Steve clifford a planetary scientist at the institute calls the loss of their craft a devastating blow

The scientifically was a major setback of all the foreseeable missions that are going to be closed doors between now and probably two thousand seven this was really the only opportunity for a major dedicated mission

Surrounding the north and south poles are vast deposits of ice and dust and gradually accumulated year after year later after mayor steve clifford's have the polar lander and its companion micro probes were to have dug into these layers providing information on events that occurred hundreds thousands even millions of years ago

The martian polar deposits essentially represents a a rosetta stone for understanding the geological climatic history the planet up reserves within those eyes korea's you may find evidence of of variations in a climate of atmospheric composition of storm activity volcanic eruptions a large impact catastrophic floods they are the one place on the planet where you could conceivably find out information about all those things

By studying these deposits the polar lander might also have helped ensure the question did mars once had a climate hospitable to life

Nasa plans eventually to send to life to mars in the form of astronauts in the polar lender could have helped year to scientists would like to find a way to tap marshes natural resources to provide astronauts with the materials they'll need when they arrive

Some researchers believe the frozen deposits near the south pole could yield i use for drinking water and as a raw material for rocket fuel home but planetary geologist jeff cargill of the united states geological survey says it's not clear if this plan will work

It makes a world of difference if gifts for instance the south pole and their deposits are ah i see that covered with twenty feet about that is that life is president and abundant right at the very service and this commission would have answered that kind of question

Nasa hopes to have a craft back on mars two years from that was part of an ambitious exploration program planned for the next decade the space agency wants to launch a pair of small mars bound probes every twenty six months

But space policy analyst marcia smith of the congressional research service says that schedule may be in jeopardy after the loss of the polar lander and its companion orbiters three months ago i think that the most important policy issue that will come out of this is assessing whether or not nasa's new philosophy is trying to build space craft faster better and cheaper actually is resulting in better spacecraft

And i think the question is going to be rather not that anyone has now swung too far to the side of cheaper when nasa launched that new philosophy officials acknowledge that it brought a risk of more failures but also an opportunity for more successes the highly publicized pathfinder probe which landed on mars in nineteen ninety seven was a product of the new regime marcia smith says nasa will have to decide how many failures it's willing to endure

She expects the agency made and sacrifice some of its planned missions to give the orders more money and presumably a greater chance of success david baron n. p. r. news

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