Date: Wed, 24 Jan 2001 10:46:04 -0700 (MST)
Subject: DPS Mailing #01-03:PRESS RELEASE ON PLUTO MISSION

Greetings, DPS Members-

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       |1) PRESS RELEASE: SCIENTISTS RUSH TO PROPOSE PLUTO MISSION|
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DPS PRESS RELEASE - January 24, 2001

SCIENTISTS RUSH TO PROPOSE PLUTO MISSION

On December 20, 2000, NASA announced that it would be soliciting proposals for 
a mission to the Pluto-Charon system and the Kuiper Belt beyond to arrive at 
Pluto by 2015. The formal announcement of opportunity was released January 19,
2001. Proposals are due on March 21, 2001.  Although this is not a guarantee 
that NASA will fly this mission, the Division for Planetary Science (DPS) of 
the American Astronomical Society applauds NASA's initiative in opening the 
process of developing a Pluto mission to the innovative ideas of the Planetary 
Science community and allowing open competition to help ensure a cost effective
solution for this mission rather than to cancel it. The extreme tilt 
of Pluto's rotational axis is causing more of its surface to be in constant 
darkness as its orbit carries it further away from the Sun. Its very thin 
atmosphere will at some point freeze out, precluding its study. Optimal 
conditions for studying Pluto and its moon Charon in situ will not return for 
200 years. In its press release of November 16, the executive Committee of 
the DPS called for increased competition and external peer review for all 
missions as a proven mechanism for seeking the most performance and return 
at reasonable cost.  While this will be a very challenging mission to develop 
on a short schedule, it will be our best chance for centuries to visit and 
study the last unexplored planet in our solar system. 

Contact:  Dr. Mark V. Sykes
	  DPS Chair
	  520-621-5381
	  sykes@as.arizona.edu

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