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September 24, 1999 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-09-24

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8-~ The Michigan Daily - - Friday, September 24, 1999


NASA Mars orbiter
disappears in space

The Washington Post
NASA's Mars Climate Orbiter
spacecraft swept in at a dangerously
low altitude upon arrival at the Red
Planet early yesterday and probably
burned or broke up in the atmosphere,
stunned and exhausted mission man-
agers reported.
"I am sorry to report that we have a
vetry' serious problem with the Mars
Climate Orbiter. We may be facing a
loss of mission," Carl Pilcher, NASA's
chief of solar system exploration, told
reporters yesterday.
If a navigation failure was the cause
of the accident, as engineers suggested,
it would represent an unprecedented
failure for a team at the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., that
leads the world in aiming spacecraft
through tiny, moving bulls'-eyes in
space hundreds of millions, or billions,
of miles distant.
NASA formed a special team to
investigate the event, as mission man-
agers continued searching for the SI25
Million spacecraft. They were listening
on varying frequencies in hopes of
hearing a signal.
Controllers at JPL failed to reac-
quire communications with the craft
as expected at 5:25 a.m., when it

was supposed to emerge from
behind Mars following a firing of its
engines that would have inserted it
into an orbit about 87 miles above
the surface.
Instead, according to mission
manager Richard Cook, controllers
realized belatedly that the trajectory
had "dropped" to an altitude of
about 37 miles, most likely sending
the craft directly into the stressing
forces of the thin Martian atmos-
phere. "It looks like something was
wrong with the ground navigation,"
Cook said. "We are, to put it bluntly
... surprised."
The orbiter was to have served as
a communications relay for the Mars
Polar Lander, scheduled to arrive on
the Martian surface Dec. 3.
However, managers said, there will
be no loss of scientific return from
the lander because there are two
other communications routes avail-
able. One is direct transmission
from the surface, the other is a relay
through the Mars Global Surveyor
currently orbiting the planet.
Following its service to the landing
mission, the Climate Orbiter was to
have spent a Martian year (687 days)
studying the climate.

China rejects U.S.
bombing explanation
NEW YORK (AP) - Even as the Clinton administration sought to improve rela
tions, China yesterday condemned a widening U.S. inquiry into allegations of
nuclear espionage and insisted anew that NATO intentionally bombed the Chinese
Embassy in Yugoslavia.
Turning a joint news conference with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright int#
a public lecture, Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan said he hoped the United States
would take "effective measures" on the bombing.
Albright seemed at a loss to counter Tang's rejection of the U.S. explanation
that the embassy bombing was a mistake. "I must say it's difficult when one is
giving the true explanation for a situation when the other side does not accept
it," she said.
Tang also assailed the president of Taiwan, Lee Teng-hui, as a troublemaker for
trying to promote a special state-to-state relationship with China.
"We hope the United States will face the dangerous nature of his separatist
remarks squarely and do nothing to puff him up,' Tang said. "For instance, no ars
should be sold to Taiwan."
The Chinese official's jabs at the news conference with Albright contrasted wits
announcement in Washington of a renewed effort to bring China into the World
Trade Organization and Albright's own emphasis on U.S.-Chinese cooperation on
East Timor, North Korea and in Asia generally.
The United States last month gave China S4.5 million in compensation intend-
ed for the families of the three people killed and 27 injured in the bombing, which
occurred May 7 during NATO's conflict with Yugoslavia that forced Serb troops
and special police out of Kosovo.
"I can only repeat the true story that it was a mistake and make very clear
how sorry we are about it," Albright said. State Department lawyers will be
sent to Beijing to discuss compensation for the damage and also for damage
caused by demonstrations against the U.S. Embassy in the Chinese capital, she
The two then met for 90 minutes and Tang did not repeat his accusation pri-
vately to Albright, a senior U.S. official said. Indeed, Tang and Albright agreed
there was a need to build up momentum toward stronger ties, said the official,
speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Mars Climate Orbiter, the first interplanetary weather satellite, probably burned
or broke up in the red planet's atmosphere yesterday.

Job Fair '99
Tuesday.October 5, 1999
Michigan Union
12:00noon - 4:00pm

Kentucky community worries about
radiation from government plant


PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) -_ The way the employees
tell it, the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant some-
times operated as if Homer Simpson were running the
place. Except that what happened there wasn't funny.
Workers used to wipe "green salt" off the plant
lunch tables, fully aware it was a radioactive byprod-
uct of the plant's main task - enriching uranium for
use as fuel in nuclear reactors.
They would bury truckloads of uranium shavings
that ignited and burned upon being exposed to the air.
They would dump thousands of barrels filled with
radioactive contaminants into ponds and bury them in
the ground. All the while, they were told they were
working with materials that were "safe enough to eat."
Now the employees and many other people in
Paducah fear they are dying because of what hap-
pened at the 47-year-old plant, McCracken County's
biggest source of jobs.
Chris Naas, a heavy-equipment operator who has
worked at the plant for 25 years, told Senate investi-
gators this week that he was taken off a job in 1974
after being told he was "hot"-- meaning, he assumed,
that he had been exposed to too much radiation.
Naas said his father turned up "hot" on several

occasions during the 20 years he worked at the plant.
"Today, he has a form of terminal cancer - lym-
phoma. We will never know what was the cause,"
Naas said. "My question is: Will I turn up the same,
and what recourse will I have?"
In June, three plant employees filed a federal law-
suit alleging that workers unwittingly were exposed
to plutonium and other highly toxic substances from
1953 to 1976. The lawsuit is sealed.
The Energy Department, which owns the plant and
is overseeing a $1 billion cleanup, later acknowledged
that 103,000 tons of recycled uranium containing a
total of 12 ounces of plutonium were handled in
Paducah during the period.
Plutonium is much more potent than uranium - it can
cause cancer if ingested in quantities as small as one-mil-
lionth of an ounce. The Energy Department is investigat-
ing why workers were exposed to plutonium and whether
contractors who operated the plant covered it up.
"We were told that the uranium substances we were
working with were safe and posed no threat to our
health, or to the health of our families," Garland
"Bud" Jenkins, who worked there for 30 years, told a
House committee Wednesday in Washington. "We

were even told the materials were safe enough to eat."
The plant site, with its combined enrichment and
cleanup operations, is the county's largest employer
with 2,000 workers.
But plant workers are not the only people in this
rural area in western Kentucky who are questionin
whether their health has been compromised.
Ronald Lamb's family has lived and worked for
years down the road from the Gaseous Diffusion
Plant. His father, William, who opened the family's
auto repair shop in 1961, died five years ago after
being diagnosed with prostate and bone cancer. Lamb
said the well at the family's house was found to have a
trace of plutonium in 1990.
Lamb, 47, sued the contractor that operated the
plant at the time, but a federal judge dismissed the
case, saying there was no evidence the well was cont-
aminated. The Energy Department told Lamb that do
positive test for plutonium in the well water was erro-
neous; he said.
But Lamb isn't convinced. He said he suspects con-
taminated well water is responsible for a long series of
illnesses he has endured for 10 years, including nerve
damage, an ulcer and intestinal problems.

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