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Tuesday, April 10, 2001 A Publication of the Newspeak Association Volume No. 66, Issue 10

Front Page
-Student Pugwash conference calls for individual responsibility
-Tough Questions, Real Answers
-Student techniques for procrastination abound

News
-News Headlines
-NASA hopes to snap losing streak with Odyssey
-Scientists say precious metals originated in neutron-star
-Police Log

Opinions
-Extremists and the men who hate them
-Imposter rents videos, seeks psychiatric help
-China joins lengthening string of leadership tests for Bush
-Tax Cut Reminiscent of "Trickle-Down" Economics
-The little things...

Letters to the Editor
-Response to Mr. Sherman's Letter
-A spring scene at WPI

Features
-Free Stuff Anyone? lastest job fair supplies goodies
-New special interest housing approved

Arts & Entertainment
-Annual Metal and Hardcore fest stomps through Worcester again
-WWPI brings The Carla Ryder Band to WPI
-Shane Koyczan's poetry infuses audience with energy
-Vapor Transmission tour visits the Palladium
-What's Happening

Announcements
-Club Corner

Sports
-Women's Lacrosse flattens Framingham 19-2
-Kaufman named national coaching VP
-Score Board
-Upcoming Contests

NASA hopes to snap losing streak with Odyssey


Courtesy of the Associated Press

NASA will try to snap its losing streak and send another spacecraft to Mars on Saturday after two humiliating failures.

"We're hoping there's no pattern," said Arizona State University geologist Phil Christensen, crossing his fingers.

Ed Weiler, head of NASA's space science office, said "there's no question" the $297 million mission has to succeed. But he added: "I don't know what more we could do to make a successful Mars mission."

The Mars Odyssey is scheduled for liftoff aboard a Delta rocket Saturday and expected to reach Mars in late October and slip into orbit around the Red Planet. For 21/2 years, it will study minerals in the rocks and measure chemical elements like hydrogen in a quest for water.

"NASA's main goal here is looking for life. And so life means looking for water," Christensen said.

In 1999, the Mars Climate Orbiter ended up in pieces around Mars or smashed on the planet because engineers mixed up English and metric units of measurement. Just 10 weeks later, the Mars Polar Lander crash-landed on Mars and was lost, most likely because of a premature engine shutdown.

To avoid another fiasco, NASA spent millions of extra dollars on Odyssey and added dozens if not hundreds of extra sets of eyes to the project. About 22,000 parameters in the computer software, any of which could doom the mission if wrong, were double-checked.

The Odyssey team and spacecraft have been "reviewed to death" over the past year, with "checkers checking the checkers," Weiler said Friday.

The fact remains, though, that Mars is tricky to reach _ and unforgiving. NASA's success rate at Mars is about 60 percent. Counting Russia's failed efforts, the overall success rate is less than 30 percent.

"If you consider the fact that some of these attempts were way back in the early '60s when we didn't understand how to build spacecraft, we've improved on those early days," said Scott Hubbard, NASA's Mars program director.

"But we certainly learned a few years ago how difficult it can be and how you don't want to take anything for granted, that this can be a one-strike-and-you're-out kind of business."

Besides it own scientific value, Odyssey's reconnaissance mission will help NASA choose the touchdown sites for a pair of rovers to be launched in 2003 and follow-on landers.

Christensen hopes to find Yellowstone-like hot springs on Mars. An infrared camera will search for any hot spots on the dark, cold side of the planet.

Even if Odyssey finds Niagara Falls at Mars, NASA almost certainly will not "go for broke" by rushing a big-budget, life-detecting robot to the planet, Weiler said. Instead, NASA will continue to send landers or orbiters every two years.

"As much as we like to talk about the search for life, it is not the raison d'etre of the space science program," he said. "Along the way to that goal, we will do the critical science that we must do to understand Mars."


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