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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1998 > Jul > Jul 1

Japan Readies Mars Probe

From: Stig_Agermose@online.pol.dk (Stig Agermose)
Date: Wed, 1 Jul 1998 05:57:13 +0200
Fwd Date: Wed, 01 Jul 1998 11:24:17 -0400
Subject: Japan Readies Mars Probe

AP via ABCNews. URL:




Photos, Data Expected Next Year

Japan Readies Mars Probe
By Martin Fackler

The Associated Press

T O K Y O, =BF June 30   =97 Japan is set to join the select circle of
interplanetary spacefaring nations with the scheduled launch this
weekend of its Planet-B probe to Mars.

If all goes as planned, the half-ton unmanned craft will begin beaming
back photographs and experimental data from the Red Planet in October

It will be the first effort by a nation other than the two former Cold
War superpowers=97the United States and Russia=97to visit another world.

"We=92ve worked a long time to get this level of self-sufficiency in
space," Yasunori Matogawa, director of Japan=92s Kagoshima Space Center,
said as preparations entered their final stages today.

The probe is scheduled for launch early Saturday morning from the
Kagoshima center in southern Japan.

10-Month Voyage

The $80 million probe will begin its mission atop a newly developed M-5
four-stage rocket, Japan=92s most powerful launch vehicle.

After two swings around the Earth, the probe should gather enough speed
to make the 440 million-mile voyage to Mars in 10 months.

Matogawa said one objective of the Planet-B program is to examine the
Martian atmosphere to see how it reacts to solar winds and to measure
the rate at which life-giving oxygen escapes into space.

While in orbit around Mars, Planet-B also will photograph the planet=92s
massive sand storms and use high-frequency pulses to search for traces
of water beneath its surface.

While the probe was designed and built in Japan, four of the craft=92s 14
experiments were provided by the United States, Canada, Sweden and

Japan also will rely on the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space
Administration=92s deep space tracking network to receive the probe=92s

The Search for Water

Matogawa said the probe is designed to use Japan=92s expertise in
atmospheric and space plasma research to compliment data collected from
U.S. probes, such as the Mars Global Surveyor currently mapping the
planet=92s surface.

Photographs from the Mars Global Surveyor last month showed a dark
patch at the bottom of a crater that could be ice=97the latest evidence
the frigid planet may once have been warm enough to sustain life.

Japan=92s next planned missions include a robot probe in 2002 to bring
back rock samples from one of the solar system=92s thousands of

Matogawa said Japan=92s next visit to an alien planet will likely be a
probe to Mercury launched early in the next millennium.           

Copyright 1998 Associated Press.

Copyright (c)1998 ABCNEWS and Starwave Corporation.