Date: Thu, 21 Sep 2000 11:17:34 -0600 (MDT)
Subject: DPS Mailing #00-20: WORK STOPPAGE ON PLUTO MISSION

Greetings, DPS Members-
 
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       |1) CONCERN OVER WORK STOPPAGE ON PLUTO MISSION          |
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The DPS has made the following press release:

PLANETARY SCIENTISTS EXPRESS MAJOR CONCERN OVER WORK STOPPAGE ON PLUTO MISSION

Astronomers have expressed their major concerns over the NASA-directed work 
stoppage for the Pluto-Kuiper Express Mission (PKE).  The American 
Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) committee has 
urged that NASA and the US Congress to find a way to fund this important 
mission, but not at the expense of other equally important planetary 
missions or its basic research and analysis programs.

A stop-work order was issued last week by NASA Associate Administrator for 
Space Science, Dr. Edward Weiler.  The stated reason was ballooning costs 
for the entire Outer Planets set of missions at JPL (which also includes 
the Europa Orbiter and Solar Probe), due largely to increased costs for the 
launch vehicle and RTGs.

The DPS committee noted that if work on PKE is not resumed before the end 
of calendar year 2000, it is likely that the 2004 launch opportunity will 
be lost, and the earliest arrival date would slip by at least 7 years (from 
2012 to 2019 or beyond).  Pluto is the only planet not yet explored by 
spacecraft and is therefore of great interest and importance to the 
planetary science community.  It is also moving rapidly outward from the 
Sun from its perihelion passage in the early 1990s, and if this mission is 
delayed beyond the 2004 launch, the opportunity to study the tenuous Pluto 
atmosphere may be lost for centuries.

The DPS, with a membership of 1225, is the world's largest organization of 
professional scientists devoted to exploring the planets and other bodies of the 
solar system.

For further information, contact:

Dr. Ellis D. Miner
DPS Press Officer
Ellis.D.Miner@jpl.nasa.gov

or

Dr. Robert M. Nelson
DPS Chair
Robert.M.Nelson@jpl.nasa.gov

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                      Nick Schneider, on behalf of the DPS Committee
                      (submissions to Al Harris: awharris@lithos.jpl.nasa.gov)