Press Release

Commerce Committee Senators Request Mars Polar Lander Documents

By SpaceRef Editor
March 28, 2000
Filed under


Tuesday, March 28, 2000

CONTACT:  Pia Pialorsi (202) 224-2670


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Committee
on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Ernest Hollings (D-SC), Ranking
Democrat of the Committee, Bill Frist (R-TN), Chairman of the Science,
Technology, and Space Subcommittee, and John Breaux (D-LA), Ranking Democrat
of the Subcommittee, today requested copies of all relevant tests conducted
on the propulsion system of the Mars Polar Lander from the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration (NASA).  The Senators asked that the material
be provided no later than April 7, 2000, and should include all tests performed
on the vehicle’s braking thrusters and rocket engine.

 “My initial review of the Young report on the Mars Polar Lander
and Deep Space 2 Missions confirms my belief that NASA senior management
is missing in action,” McCain said.  “This report is an embarrassment
to the agency.  I think a thorough review of Mars Polar Lander documents
is not just in order, but is imperative.  We owe it to the American
taxpayer.  I believe it’s important that this Committee exercises
more rigorous oversight of NASA from this point forward.”


 “The members of this Committee understand that space exploration
is inherently risky,”  Hollings said.  “In light of the issues
raised by the Young Report, we want to be confident that risks being taken
are in pursuit of scientific breakthroughs, and are not as a result of
errors on the ground.”

 “Last week’s hearing on NASA management, and recent developments
have made it clear that more stringent oversight is necessary,” said Frist. 
“It’s critical that we review the requested documents to gain better insight
into the failure of the Mars Polar Lander as we determine the appropriate
actions.  Our goal must be to ensure that NASA is accountable and
that effective basic management is practiced agency-wide.  It may
be time to amend NASA’s mantra of ëfaster, better, cheaper’ to include
ëback to the basics.'”

 “In light of recent news accounts that NASA test results may have
been altered, we, on the Senate Commerce Committee, must be able to review
the best numbers available on the reliability of Mars Polar Lander,” Breaux
said.  “Taxpayers in Louisiana and nationwide deserve a good accounting
of NASA’s problems in the Mars Polar Lander program.”

 Last Wednesday, March 22, the Science, Technology, and Space Subcommittee
held a hearing on management challenges at NASA.

(letter to NASA Administrator attached)

SpaceRef staff editor.