Author Topic: Mars Rover Opportunity Finally Launched to Red Planet  (Read 100 times)

Don Seer

Mars Rover Opportunity Finally Launched to Red Planet
« on: July 08, 2003, 01:43:54 AM »
story is frmo
they have full coverage of the mars rover project here >>>

Mars Rover Opportunity Finally Launched to Red Planet

Mars Rover Opportunity Finally Launched to Red Planet
By Jim Banke
Senior Producer,
Cape Canaveral Bureau
posted: 01:00 am ET
08 July 2003


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Technology and weather finally cooperated at the same time late Monday, allowing NASA at long last to send the Mars Rover Opportunity on its way to the Red Planet.

Riding atop the first-ever Delta 2 Heavy rocket, Opportunity was sent safely speeding on a path that would have it escape Earth's gravity and travel seven months to reach the Martian surface.

Opportunity is joining its twin, the Mars Rover Spirit launched June 10, on an $800 million mission to learn more about when water might have flowed on Mars. Both probes are targeted to land in January.

Only three of humanity's nine landing attempts at the Red Planet have succeeded, said Ed Weiler, NASA's space science chief in Washington, D.C.

"If we beat the odds and our missions arrive safely, I think it's safe to bet that we'll see the biggest scientific return from another planet that we've ever seen," Weiler said. "And we'll see the most fantastic Martian landscapes we think you can imagine."

Delta delivers

Liftoff in perfect weather came at 11:18:15 p.m. EDT (0318.15 GMT Tuesday) from pad 17B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.


The first Delta 2 Heavy stands at pad 17B ready to send the Mars Rover Opportunity on its way.

The Mars Rover Opportunity sits atop a Delta 2 Heavy rocket, its nose cone about to be installed.

This Boeing graphic details the Delta 2 Heavy rocket.
     More Stories
 Heavy Lifting Delta 2 Ready to Send Opportunity to Mars

 Mars Rover Team Hopes 'Opportunity' Ready for Mars Mission

 Boeing Delta 2 Sends Spirit Soaring Toward Red Planet

 Mars Rovers FAQ: From Launch to Landing


      Related Links
 Mars Exploration Rover mission homepage

 Athena Instrument Site

Monday's first chance to fly at 10:35:23 p.m. EDT (0235.23 GMT Tuesday) was missed when a liquid oxygen fill and drain valve to the rocket's first stage did not close properly and the countdown was held seven seconds before launch.

A quick round of tests on the valve confirmed it was working properly so the countdown was allowed to start again. This time it all came together.

"I think we've done just about everything twice that we could do," said Omar Baez, NASA's director of expendable launch vehicles for the Kennedy Space Center. "We're looking very good."

The night sky glowed a brilliant orange as the 13-story rocket climbed away from its launch stand and streaked out over the Atlantic Ocean, shedding its stages as each consumed its propellant.

Eyewitnesses on the ground enjoyed the usual blinding spectacle of a night shot from the Cape, while viewers of NASA TV also were treated to incredible views of the climb to orbit courtesy of a tiny camera mounted to the Delta 2 Heavy's second stage.

By all appearances the new version of the workhorse Delta 2 rocket operated flawlessly. Sporting nine solid rocket boosters originally designed for use by the Delta 3, the slightly larger motors performed as expected to give Opportunity an extra kick in speed.

Initial success was claimed about 83 minutes after launch when the Mars Rover spacecraft separated from its third stage.

A few minutes later a Deep Space Network ground station in California acquired the probe's radio signal and officials reported that all was well, sending another cheer through the various control rooms monitoring the mission.

Beat the clock

First planned for launch June 25, a variety of problems conspired to keep the Boeing Delta 2 Heavy rocket on the ground until July 7.

Most of the delay was caused by concerns with two bands of cork that wrap around the Delta 2 rocket's first stage. The cork protects some particularly sensitive points of the first stage's skin from high temperature during the climb through the atmosphere.

Unfortunately routine inspections revealed the cork was not sticking properly and repairs were ordered on more than one occasion when the problem repeated itself.

Weather also prompted a scrubbed launch attempt the evening of June 27 and into the morning of June 28. Surface winds blowing in the wrong direction and upper level winds blowing too strongly both contributed, as did a boat in the launch danger zone at the wrong time.

Then just as the cork problem was solved, engineers discovered a battery in the system that is used to destroy the vehicle in flight if necessary had to be replaced, delaying launch another 24 hours.

All this time mission managers and scientists were keeping an eye on the calendar. Opportunity had to get off the ground by about July 15 or face either a four-year wait for the next launch window or immediate banishment to a museum.

Planetary launch windows between Earth and Mars take place every 26 months.

This year, with Mars about to make its closest approach to Earth in thousands of years, mission scientists were able to take advantage of the proximity by sending bigger spacecraft with the same sized rocket -- truly a case of "more bang for your buck."

But as Weiler noted following the launch of Spirit in June, despite the hard work it takes to prepare and execute a launch, the most difficult part of the mission is still ahead. He advises the Mars Rover team to not get too giddy prematurely.

"The job is just beginning," Weiler said. "It's not time for champagne quite yet."


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Re:Mars Rover Opportunity Finally Launched to Red Planet
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2003, 06:10:21 PM »
The guys at NASA are incredible, I think space exploration is one of the pinnacles of human success, it shows our intelligence and ingenuity.