Sunday, January 25, 2004

O'Keefe: New NASA to be 'Distinctively Different' than Old Agency: "Tension runs high again at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) as the Mars Opportunity rover draws closer to the red planet. Even with the successful Spirit landing three weeks ago, Opportunity's plunge to Meridiani Planum on Mars remains a high-risk business.

"'It's my guess that the pucker-factor is going to be every bit as high,' said NASA Administrator, Sean O'Keefe, who has arrived here to witness the rover's entry, descent and landing. 'This is the equivalent to the Super Bowl for these people.'"

"Looking toward the future, O'Keefe told SPACE.com that the soon-to-be-released NASA budget will augment Mars exploration plans, making them more in step with President George W. Bush's new space exploration agenda. Details within NASA's budget for 2005 are to be unveiled on February 3.

"Mars exploration, both robotic and human, will receive a coordinated boost given the White House push to move NASA beyond low Earth orbit, O'Keefe said. What is going to be 'distinctively different' is integrating missions and objectives, as well as adding missions to achieve 'a broader exploration agenda,' he said."

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