The first major step toward NASA's return of a spacecraft to an orbit around Mars was achieved late Thursday night, Jan. 4, when the Mars Odyssey spacecraft arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The spacecraft was shipped aboard an Air Force C-17 cargo airplane from Denver, Colo., location of the Lockheed Martin plant where the spacecraft was built. The project is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Mars Odyssey was moved on a transport trailer from the Shuttle Landing Facility to the Kennedy Space Center's Spacecraft Assembly and Encapsulation Facility 2, where it will undergo final assembly and checkout. This includes installation of two of the three science instruments, integration of the three-panel solar array, and a spacecraft functional test. It will be fueled and then mated to an upper stage booster, the final activities before going to the launch pad.
Launch is planned for April 7, the first day of a 21-day launch opportunity. Mars Odyssey will be inserted into an interplanetary trajectory by a Boeing Delta II launch vehicle from Pad A at Complex 17. The spacecraft will arrive at Mars on Oct. 20, 2001, for insertion into an initial elliptical capture orbit. Its final operational altitude at Mars will be a 400 kilometer-high (250 mile-) Sun-synchronous polar orbit. Mars Odyssey will conduct a two-year mission in Mars orbit mapping the planet's surface and measuring its environment.
"Ultimately, the spacecraft could contribute significantly toward understanding what may be necessary for a more sophisticated exploration of Mars, and perhaps an eventual human visit," said Mars Odyssey Project Manger George Pace of JPL.
The program management of the Mars Odyssey mission is by the Office of Space Science at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. The launch is managed by NASA's Kennedy Space Center.
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