20 March 2001. With thanks to BC, JC and RS


EXCLUSIVE: Spy Agency May Have Located Mars Polar Lander

By Leonard David Senior Space Writer posted: 06:49 pm ET 19 March 2001

WASHINGTON � The Mars Polar Lander may have been found -- intact -- by a top-secret spy imagery agency. The National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) has been quietly scanning Mars pictures, looking for the Mars Polar Lander since early December 1999. According to a source close to the NIMA effort, photographic specialists at NIMA think they�ve spotted something. But NASA officials say it�s too early to tell...

...NIMA is a combat support agency of the Department of Defense. The agency has a global mission and unique responsibilities to manage and provide imagery and geo-spatial information to national policymakers and military forces. A world-class leader in imagery intelligence, NIMA routinely supports the operations of top-secret U.S. national security spacecraft. They employ specialists in maximizing information that can be gleaned from surveillance photography. "Shortly after the loss of Mars Polar Lander, NIMA and NASA began working together analyzing images of the intended landing site and to try to locate the spacecraft," said Jennifer Lafley, a NIMA spokeswoman. "At this point, the results of this study are not conclusive, and the agencies are working together on resolving a number of technical questions," Lafley said.

...Weiler said NIMA experts have been searching for the probe for some 14 to 15 months. "They�ve got some initial data. We�ve looked at it and we�ve agreed there�s some technical issues on whether there�s anything there or not," he said. "We are a couple to several months away from resolving each other's questions and coming to a joint conclusion. We will do this together -- NIMA and NASA," Weiler said."