Press Release

Don’t Cancel Mission to Pluto: The Planetary Society Begins Public Campaign

By SpaceRef Editor
July 28, 2000
Filed under

The Planetary Society

65 N. Catalina Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91106-2301 (626) 793-5100 Fax (626)

793-5528 E-mail: tps@planetary.org Web: http://planetary.org

For Immediate Release: July 28, 2000 Contact: Susan Lendroth

Will we complete the reconnaissance of our solar system or not? NASA and
the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) may be seriously contemplating
the cancellation of the Pluto Express mission now in development by NASA’s
Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The mission to Pluto — the only planet in the solar system not yet
explored by spacecraft — is currently planned for a 2004 launch. This is
the last opportunity for more than a decade to take advantage of the
Jupiter gravity assist needed to reach the distant planet.

The Society has launched a campaign to urge its 100,000 members and the
interested public to take immediate action asking Congress to forestall any
attempt to cancel the mission. Individuals can log into The Planetary
Society’s web site at http://planetary.org for more information and to
directly contact their members of Congress.

“For four decades we have sent missions of exploration into space, from
heat-seared Mercury to the blue wonder of Neptune. What will it say of our
generation — and our lack of wonder and curiosity — if we stop now, right
before exploring Pluto, the last outpost planet of our Solar system?” asks
Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society.

Pluto is an object of intense interest and mystery to scientists.
Speculations abound about whether it’s part of a double planet with its
companion Charon, a burnt out comet or large asteroid, or even a planet in
its own right.

It is also a mystery why NASA would consider canceling development of Pluto
Express. The argument presented is that NASA cannot afford to do both a
Europa orbiter and a Pluto flyby, even though both of these missions were
part of a previously approved outer planets exploration program.

Recently, NASA delayed the Europa orbiter — from a 2004 launch to 2006 or
2007 — because of technical concerns. The Europa orbiter requires new
technology for power and radiation-hard electronic components. However,
canceling the Pluto mission would not be because of technical reasons. It
would be a political budgetary decision.

“Either administration support for space science is now diminishing or NASA
is returning to the old days of fewer, more expensive missions,” said
Friedman.

The Planetary Society strongly believes that both the Europa orbiter and
the Pluto mission should be launched (as well as a solar probe also planned
for the outer planets exploration program). Reasonable financial resources
exist in NASA and in the U.S. to fund all these missions during the time
period of 2004-2008.

The Planetary Society feels that the public strongly supports completing
our reconnaissance of all nine planets in the solar system and urges
everyone to join the Society’s campaign to make that support known to NASA
and Congress.

-o0o-

CONTACT INFORMATION:

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact Susan
Lendroth at (626)793-5100 ext. 214 or by e-mail at tps.sl@planetary.org.

THE PLANETARY SOCIETY:

Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded The Planetary Society
in 1980 to advance the exploration of the solar system and to continue the
search for extraterrestrial life. With 100,000 members in over 140
countries, the Society is the largest space interest group in the world.

Linda Wong

The Planetary Society

65 N. Catalina Ave.

Pasadena, CA 91106-2301

Tel: (626) 793-5100 ext. 236

Fax: (626) 793-5528

E-Mail: tps@planetary.org

SpaceRef staff editor.