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NASA manager to speak at Victoria University

Bob Mitchell, Project Manager of the Cassini mission to Saturn and Mission Director of the Galileo mission to Jupiter will give a free public lecture at Victoria University's School of Chemical and Physical Sciences on Thursday April 13.

Mitchell has had 'hands on' roles as a leader and manager of planetary exploration programmes at NASA's jet propulsion laboratory for 35 years.

He has come to New Zealand primarily to talk at the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand’s annual conference this coming weekend.

Mitchell is the Project Manager for the two-story-tall robotic spacecraft Cassini that is currently on its way to Saturn, the most distant planet that can easily be seen by the unaided human eye.

Cassini will reach Saturn in July 2004. It carries a number of high-tech scientific sensors to support 27 different investigations into the mysteries of the Saturn system.

Saturn has an interesting atmosphere and interior, spectacular ring systems, numerous icy satellites with a variety of unique surface features, and the moon Titan, which is slightly larger than the planet Mercury, and whose hazy atmosphere is denser than that of Earth.

Cassini will begin to transmit its findings from Saturn during the 2004-2008 period.

Mitchell began his career at NASA's jet propulsion laboratory in 1965 working on trajectory design, mission design and navigation for planetary exploration missions, including Mariner '67 (which explored Venus), Mariner '71 (the first Mars orbiter), and the Viking orbiter and lander missions to Mars.

Bob Mitchell is also the Mission Director and Project Manager of the Galileo mission to Jupiter, beginning as Mission Design Manager in 1979.

For the past four years the Galileo spacecraft has been exploring the
Jupiter system and is sending back to Earth many magnificent images and a huge amount of scientific data from the giant planet and its family of moons. This new information has greatly expanded knowledge of the
Jupiter system and also helped to provide some answers to many questions about the origin and evolution of the Solar System.

In his lecture entitled "Galileo-Mission to Jupiter" Bob Mitchell will share his 'inside' view of planetary exploration projects. The presentation will cover the results and achievements of this successful mission and will be illustrated by many of the Galileo images.

Victoria 'Reader' and astrophysicist Denis Sullivan, describes Mitchell as
"a very experienced scientist and engineer in the NASA hierarchy who will provide unique insights into the exciting explorations of our planetary neighbours".

The lecture is at 7:30 - 8:30 pm in MacLaurin Lecture Theatre 3, gate
6, Kelburn Parade, School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, Victoria University.

ENDS

Issued by the Communications Unit of Victoria University of Wellington. For further information please contact Zoe Triggs on 463 5233 ext 8075 or email zoe.triggs@vuw.ac.nz or denis.sullivan@vuw.ac.nz.

Conference email: astronomy.wellington.net.nz/st2000/

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