Douglas Isbell 
Headquarters, Washington, DC                      Nov. 15, 1999
(Phone:  202/358-1753)

Mary Hardin
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA
(Phone:  818/354-5011)

RELEASE:  99-135


     NASA's Deep Space 2 microprobes, due to smash into the 
surface of Mars near the planet's south pole on Dec. 3, have been 
named Amundsen and Scott in honor of the first explorers to reach 
the South Pole of Earth.

     Paul Withers, a graduate student at the University of Arizona 
in Tucson, wrote the winning essay, among a NASA-record 17,000 
entries submitted in a public contest to name the ambitious space 

     "A century ago, Antarctica was the Earth's only unexplored 
continent.  Then expeditions led by Amundsen and Scott landed 
there, striving to discover its secrets, seeking knowledge, and 
finding a land of stark beauty," wrote Withers, who studies the 
thin upper atmosphere of Mars.  "ŠScott perished in Antarctica.  
His memorial's inscription reads:  'To strive, to seek, to find, 
not to yield.'  These are aims of the Deep Space 2."

     Norwegian Roald Amundsen explored the Northwest Passage 
before leading the first successful expedition to the South Pole, 
reaching it on Dec. 14, 1911.  Robert Falcon Scott led an English 
team to the South Pole in January 1912, only to discover the 
national flag left during Amundsen's earlier arrival.  Although 
blizzards and starvation claimed Scott and his entire team on 
their return trip, the search party found scientifically valuable 
diaries and notebooks.

     The main purpose of NASA's miniature probes is technical, not 
scientific:  flight-testing advanced technology that could be used 
by future planetary surface microlanders.  Constructed to survive 
an abrupt impact at 400 mph with the layered terrain common in the 
south polar region of Mars, the two Deep Space 2 probes also carry 
sensors to search for the presence of water ice about three feet 
below the surface, as a secondary goal.

     "Deep Space 2 joins Mars Polar Lander as the first missions 
to venture to the south pole of Mars, so it's only fitting to name 
the microprobes after the two explorers who first set foot on 
Earth's South Pole," said Deep Space 2 project manager Sarah 
Gavit.  "Like Amundsen and Scott, Deep Space 2 will have to 
survive great odds, including not only braving the elements but 
also crashing into the terrain with unbelievable force."

     A gift certificate for CompUSA merchandise worth $4000 will 
go to the grand-prize winner.  The prize, provided by Lockheed 
Martin Corp., the Boeing Co. and CompUSA, will go directly from 
the donating companies to the winner.  The top 25 finalists will 
receive one copy each of a Deep Space 2 poster signed by project 
team leaders.

     Participants in the contest were instructed to choose two 
people from history (not living), characters from mythology or 
fiction, two places or things in some way associated with each 
other, or a combination of the above elements.  Submissions had to 
be accompanied by a short written composition of up to 100 words 
explaining why the entries would make good names for the probes.  
This essay was used as the tiebreaker if more than one person 
submitted the same pair of names, which happened in the case of 
the winning submission.

     The Deep Space 2 probes are piggybacking on NASA's Mars Polar 
Lander spacecraft, which was launched on Jan. 3.  Each probe has 
an entry system consisting of a basketball-sized aeroshell with a 
grapefruit-sized probe inside.  Released from the cruise stage of 
the Mars Polar Lander on Dec. 3 before it enters the atmosphere of 
Mars, the probes will dive toward the surface with no braking 
system beyond their cone-shaped exterior surface.  Unlike any 
spacecraft before them, the probes must endure impact forces up to 
60,000 times the force of Earth's gravity as they hit the surface.  

     Upon impact, the aeroshell will shatter and the forebody of 
each probe will bury itself up to about three feet (one meter) 
underground, while the aftbody remains on the surface to transmit 
data back to Earth through NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft.  
If successful, Deep Space 2 will demonstrate innovative approaches 
to entering a planet's atmosphere, surviving a crash-like impact 
and penetrating below a planet's surface. 

     The mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory 
(JPL) in Pasadena, CA.  JPL is a division of the California 
Institute of Technology.


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