Digging Mars

Scientists know the Martian surface well. This week they will launch a mission to probe the inner Mars

On the whole, NASA has always treated Mars with respect. American spacecraft have flown by, orbited and even landed on the Red Planet. What they've never done is wound it. If scientists ever hope to understand Mars fully, however, they are going to have to puncture the dry Martian rind to sample the planetary pulp below. Next week NASA will launch a ship that will begin that process.

The upcoming mission is a two-spacecraft extravaganza. The first ship--set to fly Dec. 10--is the workmanlike Mars Climate Orbiter. Arriving in September 1999, the spacecraft will enter an orbit of the planet that...

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