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Life and Arts

La Cañada History: Mars Polar Lander lost during descent to Red Planet 20 years ago this week

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Mars Polar Lander team members sit in the mission control room of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge on Friday, Dec. 3, 1999. With the minutes and hours ticking by, scientists and engineers managing the project nervously awaited signals from the lander after it failed to promptly radio home to confirm whether it had safely parachuted onto the treacherous surface of the Red Planet.

(Mark J. Terrill/AP)

Ten Years Ago

Under a new policy adopted by the school board in early December 2009, people who worked but didn’t live within the La Cañada Unified School District would be able to more easily enroll their children here. The changes would relieve out-of-district residents from securing the permission of their home school district to send their students to LCUSD schools.

Twenty Years Ago

Early optimism at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory faded to gloom when scientists and engineers admitted they held out very little hope the $165-million Mars Polar Lander would ever be heard from again. The spacecraft was supposed to land on the Red Planet at about noon on Dec. 3, 1999, but it never reported back to JPL. It was later surmised the lander had not survived its descent into Mars’ South Polar Cap, possibly due to a software error. A sister craft, the $125-million Mars Climate Orbiter, had been lost September of that same year. The orbiter’s loss was blamed on a failure to convert navigation measurements from English to metric units.

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Thirty Years Ago

In recognition of his contributions to the American Youth Soccer Organization, La Cañadan Myles Standish was honored with a tournament dedicated to his name. It was reported the event would be held at Thanksgiving time each year.

Forty Years Ago

After nearly a year of negotiations, the La Cañada Teachers Assn. and the school district signed a compromise contract that included a 7% salary increase for the teachers retroactive to July 1, 1979.

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Fifty Years Ago

More than two dozen La Cañada and La Crescenta youths were taken into custody by sheriff’s deputies during the first week of December 1969. They faced various charges, including curfew violation, reckless driving, evading arrest, possession of marijuana, possession of dangerous drugs, glue sniffing, possession of alcohol, drunk driving and grand theft auto.

Sixty Years Ago

La Cañada’s two princesses on the 1960 Tournament of Roses royal court, Sherri Goodner and Virginia Uebbing, posed with Rose Queen Margarethe Bertelson for a Valley Sun photo.

Compiled from the Valley Sun archives.

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