The Martian Armada

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Even if the reports of the discovery of alien bacteria from Mars turn out to be mistaken, the enthusiasm developing in the wake of yesterday's announcement has some serious implications for the future of planetary research. NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin asked for a "robust program of exploration" of Mars, and it seems he may get it. On Wednesday, President Clinton announced that the U.S. would follow up the discovery with international scientists at a space summit this November. Two unmanned probes blasting off for scientific missions to Mars this November and December will be followed by eight more within a decade. "Congress has tentatively scheduled $100 million a year for ten years for Mars research," says TIME's Jeffrey Kluger. "Appropriations like that are always conditional, dependent on future results which may or may not materialize." Kluger says that a discovery of this magnitude tends to generate great enthusiasm and commitment: "It is unlikely that a legislator could make a persuasive argument right now that space exploration is superfluous. This discovery has already generated a lot of momentum. It will be a long time before it stops rolling." -->