March 27, 2000

The Honorable Daniel S. Goldin
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Washington, DC 20546-0001

Dear Mr. Goldin:

Thank you for initiating the thorough independent assessment of NASA's Mars exploration program in light of the recent losses of the Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander along with the Deep Space-2 penetrating probes.  I am pleased to know that this team and others have identified what they believe to be the most probable causes of the recent mission failures, and that you have initiated efforts to prevent recurrences.  I also appreciate your efforts, and the efforts of the independent assessment team, in identifying specific management concerns that contributed to these losses.

I have asked Dr. Neal Lane, my Assistant for Science and Technology, to review the independent assessment team's report.  As you know, I have long viewed the robotic exploration of the solar system, and especially Mars and other targets related to NASA's search for life beyond Earth, as an important national priority.  My continued commitment to a sustained and incrementally more aggressive program of  Mars exploration is reflected in the funding request and program structure outlined in my FY 2001 budget request for NASA.  I was heartened to see that the independent assessment team agrees with the importance of continued Mars exploration and that they endorse the "faster, better, cheaper" approach, when properly applied, as an effective means of achieving results more efficiently.  Looking into the far-term, it is clear that new technologies and approaches to exploration, such as the drive to establish a continuous, multi-point presence at Mars, will greatly increase the understanding of our researchers and the public's excitement.

Thank you in advance for the hard work and dedication I'm sure NASA and industry will apply in addressing the technical and management problems identified by the independent assessment team.  Please implement appropriate actions to correct the causes, address the management concerns that contributed to the recent mission losses, and ensure the nation's ability to conduct a more robust and successful program of sustained robotic exploration of Mars.


Office of Science and Technology Policy
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