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NASA postpones Mars mission announcement

File image of the Sojourner rover on Mars
File image of the Sojourner rover on Mars  

July 24, 2000
Web posted at: 4:59 p.m. EDT (2059 GMT)

(CNN) -- Which will it be: an orbiter with a precise high-resolution camera or a large rover that lands on airbags? NASA had planned to announce on Monday which of the two proposed robotic missions it will send to Mars three years from now. But the space agency decided Friday to delay an official decision.

Edward Weiler, the NASA associate administrator, said the selection process was more complex and difficult than anticipated and that it will take perhaps one to two weeks longer than planned to make the final decision.

The satellite would have a camera capable of imaging objects as small as about 2 feet (60 cm) across. The rover would use an airbag cocoon like that used to land the 1997 Mars Pathfinder spacecraft.

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The space agency had expected to send numerous orbiters and landers to the red planet in the early part of this decade. But the disastrous loss last year of both a lander and orbiter prompted NASA to re-evaluate its Mars program and scale back the flight schedule.

NASA still plans to send a separate orbiter mission to Mars in 2001.

For the 2003 mission, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and Lockheed Martin Astronautics in Denver, Colorado, conducted separate studies to evaluate the two missions.




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