UA imaging probe gets caught up in Chicago police chase

By Joseph Altman Jr.

Arizona Daily Wildcat

A $6 million UA imaging probe is supposed to make a journey to Mars soon but a piece of it almost didn't make it through Chicago.

The Hyde Park Herald reported that a component of the Mars Pathfinder project valued at $50,000 was being transported to the University of Chicago by taxicab on Feb. 21 when the cab, parked in front of a coffee shop, was hit by a car involved in a police pursuit.

German chemist Rudolf Rieder, who was escorting the equipment from Germany, said he was buying a cup of coffee when the accident occurred.

Dan Britt, coordinator of the project for the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, said the equipment was scheduled to undergo shock and vibration tests in Denver, but survived its unannounced test with no apparent damage.

The accident occurred when a car driven by a 15-year-old boy struck the back of the cab. Police were pursuing the car, which had gone through several intersections without stopping.

The accident damaged the cab's trunk, packed with Rieder's luggage and the space instrument, and sprained the driver's neck.

Britt said the component was packaged well and the accident will not delay the project. The Pathfinder is being assembled in Denver and should arrive at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in May for calibration, he said.

The Pathfinder is expected to be sent to Mars in Dec. 1996, when it will send images of the planet's atmosphere and surface mineralogy to the University of Arizona for analysis, Britt said.

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