Meteorite Launches NASA

August 9, 1996

Meteorite Launches NASA

After hundreds of satellite launches, moon shots and space shuttle flights, it took a lowly rock from Mars falling out of the sky to put NASA back in the limelight.

The announcement earlier this week of the possibility that a meteorite from Mars shows traces of bacteria-like organisms lit up the space agency like nothing else in recent memory. Suddenly, NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin was at the White House, briefing President Clinton on the implications of the find. Clinton then called for a space summit in November to discuss how to respond to the find.

The Associated Press reported that in the wake of the announcement about the meteorite, NASA has received so many hits on its Web site that employees have had to set up an additional computer to ease the load.

Of course, many scientists are skeptical that the meteorite really contains chemical and biological evidence of life. And even if it did, we'd be talking about microorganisms here, not little green men. But NASA officials are undeterred.

"It's undoubtedly the most exciting thing I've done in my 27 years as a scientist," said NASA's Everett Gibson at a news conference Wednesday. "I have to admit that it does beat Apollo in the excitement there, and that's tough to do."

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