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March 8, 2000

Ann Hutchison
Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX
(Phone: 281/483-5111)

Release: J00-14

NASA to Host 31st Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston

New evidence that an ocean may once have existed on Mars will be among this year’s topics of interest at the 31st annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC), March 13-17, 2000. The conference, which is chaired by Dr. Carl B. Agee of NASA and Dr. David C. Black of the Lunar and Planetary Institute, will be held at the NASA Johnson Space Center and the University of Houston—Clear Lake (UHCL).

One highlight of this year’s conference will be early results from the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft, which went into orbit around the asteroid Eros on February 14. As the first spacecraft to orbit an asteroid, the NEAR mission promises to answer fundamental questions about the nature and origin of asteroids in the vicinity of Earth's orbit. These objects are of interest as the primary source of large bodies that collide with Earth, greatly influencing the evolution of the atmosphere and life on our planet. Early information, images and data analysis from this mission will be presented by NEAR team members during a special session of invited talks March 14.

Other presentations will focus on

 results from the Galileo spacecraft’s close fly-bys of Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io  new theories about the presence of water on early Mars  latest results from the Mars Global Surveyor’s 2-year mapping mission  new views of the moon  the martian surface as seen by Mars Pathfinder and Viking  meteorites from the asteroids, the moon and Mars  astrobiology and the origin(s) of life in the universe  impact craters throughout the solar system

Oral presentations are scheduled all day Monday through Thursday, as well as Friday morning in JSC’s Gilruth Center. Dr. John Wood, meteorite researcher from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, will give the Harold Masursky Lecture at a special session Monday afternoon. His topic will be “Chondrites: Tight-Lipped Witnesses to the Beginning.” Poster presentations are scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at UHCL’s Bayou Building.

Additional information about conference events, including registration and text of abstracts, can be found at the Lunar and Planetary Institute website: Click on “meetings and conferences.”

News media should contact Pam Thompson by phone at 281/486-2175 with questions or to schedule interviews with participants, or by e-mail (


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