Press Release   Home  >   News & Publications  > Press Releases

March 23, 1996
For Immediate Release

APL Provides Forum for International
Low-Cost Planetary Missions Conference

The latest developments in low-cost planetary missions will be the focus of an international conference on April 16-19 sponsored by the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA)* and hosted by The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), in Laurel, Md., USA.

The conference will bring together international researchers to share information about current planetary exploration programs, probe new concepts, and encourage international cooperation in mission planning. "Major successes using low-cost missions have occurred since the first IAA conference two years ago," says Arnoldo Valenzuela, conference Co-Chairman and Chairman of the IAA committee on Small Satellite Missions, which is sponsoring the four-day event. "This conference gives us an opportunity to take an in-depth look at those programs and plan for new ones."

Stamatios M. Krimigis, conference Co-Chairman and Head of the APL's Space Department, says the Laboratory's recent launch of the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous spacecraft proves that important planetary exploration can be accomplished on a low-cost basis. "NEAR, as the first launch in NASA's Discovery Program, is charting a new course," Dr. Krimigis says. "It's an icon for what future space programs need to be in light of shrinking budgets."

The conference will bring together the top researchers in the field of planetary exploration says Edward C. Stone, Director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and conference Co-Chairman. "It's a tremendous opportunity to foster new collaborative efforts among individuals and institutions," he says. "I am especially gratified to note the strong support in the planetary science community for affordable missions with focused scientific objectives."

Carl Sagan, eminent Cornell University astronomer, is Honorary Chairman for the conference. The conference's opening keynote address will be given by Bruce C. Murray, of the California Institute of Technology, who also serves as Vice President of the Planetary Society. NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin is the invited speaker for the Thursday evening banquet.

Opening day presentations include an overview of current and proposed European, Japanese, Russian, NASA, and other planetary programs. Missions that will be featured at the conference are: NEAR, launched February 17, 1996, to study the asteroid Eros; Mars Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor, both scheduled for launch in December 1996; the Moon Orbiting Observatory (MORO) to map lunar topography, mineralogy, geochemistry, and gravity; the Lunar-A mission, which will send penetrators to the lunar surface in 1997 to investigate the origin and evolution of the moon; MUSES-C, a mission that will return samples from the near-Earth asteroid Nereus; and the Kuiper Express mission to study planets and other objects along the Kuiper Belt.

Panel discussions will be held on the public perspective of planetary exploration, the right balance of science return to mission cost, and case studies of low-cost planetary missions. Special technical sessions will take a close look at ground operations, space technology, space transportation, management issues, and sensors and instrumentation. The NEAR Mission Control Center located on the APL campus will be available for tours.

Attendance by more than 300 scientists, engineers, mission planners, and administrators from around the world is expected.

* Conference cosponsors include:

    Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES)
    Deutsche Agentur FÄr Raumfahrtangelgenheiten (DARA)
    European Space Agency (ESA)
    Institute for Space and Astronautical Sciences (ISAS)
    National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
    The Planetary Society
    Space Research Institute (IKI)

For more information, contact APL Public Information Officer Helen Worth; phone: 240-228-5113 or 410-778-5113.

You may also access the IAA Conference homepage address on the Internet at: