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Star struck over space

John Zarrella

By John Zarrella
CNN Miami Bureau Chief

January 4, 2000
Web posted at: 10:21 a.m. EST (1521 GMT)

This news analysis was written for CNN Interactive.

musings at the millennium

MIAMI (CNN) -- The talk was about going to Mars. I wanted to tell them to let it go.

It was less than two weeks after the loss of the Mars Polar Lander, and team members Laurie Leshin and Karen McBride were already musing over how, in two years or so, a spacecraft might again be flying to the south pole of the Red Planet.

Both women had just spent five years of their lives preparing to study Mars up close. Their dream most likely vaporized in descent or crashed on the surface. They may never know.

1999 was not a particularly good year for NASA. The shuttle fleet went through a well-documented series of struggles. Two Mars probes were lost.

Yet, NASA engineers and scientists -- at least publicly -- are always looking forward. Leshin and McBride are examples. Years of work down the drain, yet they're ready to do it all over again. They exhibit an intense drive, a devotion to a cause.

more musings

NASA is already putting out news releases touting 2000 as the beginning of the new millennium of space exploration. Eight shuttle flights and 13 rocket launches are scheduled. And the Kennedy Space Center gets a new area code: 321. Cute.

When I ran into Leshin and McBride, they were at the Kennedy Space Center for the December launch of the Shuttle Discovery. Neither had seen a shuttle launch before and, since Mars exploration was out for now, this was the next best way to stay close to what they love the most: space.



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