By Katie H.
November 17, 1996


I have sad news. The Russian Mars spacecraft that was launched yesterday, Saturday, had problems when the booster rockets did not ignite in its fourth stage after lift-off. The Russian Space Agency said they lost their space craft and it was orbiting around Earth somewhere in central or south Australia around 8:00 PM on Sunday night. President Clinton is on a vacation in Hawaii and had planned to be in Australia this Monday, November 18th. He is still going to go to Australia.

There are four small radioactive plutonium generators which are like batteries on board that were going to be used to move around the robot landing vehicles. It seems like a bad dream and kind of like a replay to me because our class at school just wrote letters to President Clinton warning him about the danger of the plutonium onboard space crafts and now this is really happening. We don't know where pieces of the spacecraft and the plutonium will fall and if they will be dangerous to us on Earth.

The U.S. SPACECOM is trying to help the Russians find their spacecraft. They think it will burn up in the atmosphere before coming back to Earth and they don't think there will be contamination. I read that the plutonium generators are in little cans so if an emergency happens like this then radioactivity is not a problem.

There was 1.1 tons of science equipment on board this Russian spacecraft that is from 20 countries in Europe and some from the United States. It cost $64 million to make this spacecraft and it was supposed to take soil samples and look for signs of water on Mars and beam the information back to the orbiting spacecraft. NASA was depending on this information for the international space station. The Russian Mars probe was supposed to land on Mars September 12, 1997.

The Russian spacecraft was two years late and when all of the other countries putting science equipment on board wanted them to get going fast to catch up maybe they made a math mistake because they had to try to launch the spacecraft too fast and did not have time to check everything carefully. I hope the Russians are as careful as NASA is about their plutonium and that we are now friends.

I hope that all will go well on December 2nd when the Mars Pathfinder goes up with the little robot called "Rover." I will be at the Kennedy Space Center watching it take off and will pray that our United States Mars Pathfinder will make it. I think "Rover" is going to be really successful and will get us the soil samples we can share with the Russians because now they won't have any. This is a sad day for space exploration but we will keep going to Mars because it is so important for science.

My goal after graduating from school is to go to the Air Force Academy to become a fighter pilot and someday work for NASA.




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