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NASA Delays Launch of Second Mars Rover

The mission is moved by one day because of weather and setbacks to the first craft's liftoff. Both are scheduled to land in January.

June 18, 2003|Usha Lee McFarling | Times Staff Writer

The launch of the second of two NASA rovers headed to Mars this summer has been delayed one day until June 26 at 12:27 a.m. EDT, Kennedy Space Center officials said Tuesday.

The delay of the second rover was caused by launch setbacks to the first rover, not by any problems with the spacecraft or the rocket that will carry it into outer space.

The launch of the first Mars Exploration Rover, originally slated for May 30, was delayed one week for last-minute engineering reviews, and an additional two days because of thunderstorms that plagued the launchpad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Launchpad workers require at least 10 days after one launch to prepare for the next, said Omar Baez, the launch director at Kennedy.

Much of the work necessary for preparing the rocket was hampered by the recent Florida storms, he added.

The spacecraft will be sent toward Mars atop a Boeing Delta II Heavy rocket, which is similar to the Delta II that carried the first rover, but has larger strap-on solid rocket motors that were developed for the larger Delta III rocket. Extra thrust is needed for the later launch date, which does not offer as favorable a route to the Red Planet.

The launch will be only the second time that a Delta II Heavy rocket has been used.

The first rover continues to travel toward Mars in good health and is expected to reach the planet Jan. 4. If all goes well, the second rover will reach the opposite side of Mars on Jan. 25.

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