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The Planetary Report • November/December 1999

Destination Mars

On the Cover: The spring equinox for Mars' southern hemisphere arrived August 2, 1999, bringing in the warm seasons of the year. The frosts of the southern polar cap began to retreat. As summer approached, so did the Mars Polar Lander (MPL), scheduled to touch down near the edge of the frost cap on December 3. What will MPL find? We don't know yet, but the lander may encounter dust storms, which frequently blow in this region. In this image, taken in late July, we see grayish-orange dust clouds just above the frost cap at the lower left.
NASA / Malin Space Science Systems

Features

4 An Interview with Tim Ferris: Does life exist on other worlds? How do we find it? If we find it, how do we study or communicate with it? Science writer Tim Ferris addresses these questions in a new PBS television series about the possibility of extraterrestrial life. He shares some of his thoughts with The Planetary Report.

5 Over One Million Served: [email protected] Passes the Million Mark: Charlene Anderson updates on [email protected], the biggest research project The Planetary Society has ever been involved with—and it just keeps getting bigger. Have you joined yet?

6 Assessing the Hazard: The Development of the Torino Scale: Long-time Planetary Society friend Rick Binzel tackles the problem of how to convey the degree of danger posed by a passing asteroid to someone only barely aware that giant rocks hurtle by Earth every day.

12 Mars Polar Lander—Countdown to Touchdown: Here it comes! We're eagerly awaiting the arrival of Mars Polar Lander on the Red Planet, carrying the Mars Microphone developed by The Planetary Society. Jennifer Vaughn gives the timeline of events on landing day. 

14 The Second Coming of NEAR: Last year we watched as the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous missed its orbit around Eros. But after another swing through the solar system, NEAR is returning to its target. NEAR mission team members Robert Farquhar, David Dunham, and Bobby Williams report on what to expect when it arrives.

Departments

3 Members' Dialogue Watching the clock; praise for Planetfest.

11 World Watch Missions to Mars and the NASA budget.

20 Q&A Do changes in Earth's magnetic field affect the biosphere?

22 Society News New members-only website, contests, and projects.

astronaut on Phobos
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