MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: Diane Ainsworth
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEOctober 2, 1998
MARS POLAR LANDER ARRIVES AT KENNEDY SPACE CENTER
NASA's Mars Polar Lander arrived at Kennedy Space Center in
Florida on Thursday, October 1, to begin final preparations for
launch January 3.
The lander will be the second of two Mars spacecraft to be
launched on Delta II vehicles this winter. It will follow Mars
Climate Orbiter, scheduled for launch December 10.
The spacecraft arrived aboard an Air Force C-17 cargo plane
which landed at KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility early Thursday
following its flight from the Lockheed Martin Astronautics plant
in Denver, CO.
The spacecraft is designed to touch down on the Martian
surface near the northernmost boundary of the south pole. This is
near the edge of Mars' thin sheet of carbon dioxide ice which
will have receded by the time the lander arrives in December
1999, late spring in the southern hemisphere of Mars. The
mission's objective is to study the water cycle at the Martian
south pole. The lander also will help scientists learn more about
climate change and current resources on Mars, studying frosts,
dust, water vapor and condensates in the Martian atmosphere.
The Mars Polar Lander is to be readied for launch in NASA's
Spacecraft Assembly and Encapsulation Facility-2 located in the
KSC Industrial Area. Among the activities to be performed will
be a functional test of the science instruments and the basic
spacecraft subsystems. Checkout of the communications system will
be performed, including a verification of the spacecraft's
ability to send data to controllers on Earth via the Mars Climate
Orbiter and the tracking stations of the Deep Space Network. The
spacecraft's radar, used during the final descent, will be
installed and the solar arrays will be attached and tested.
The Deep Space 2 microprobes will also be installed on the
lander's cruise ring. These two probes, developed at JPL under
NASA's New Millennium Program, will test technology and
instruments to search for water several feet below the Martian
surface. The spacecraft will then be ready for mating with the
cruise stage and parachutes used for the trip through the lower
Martian atmosphere will then be installed.
Next, the spacecraft will be fueled with its attitude
control fuel and undergo spin balance testing. Finally, on
December 15, the spacecraft will be mated to a Star 48 solid
propellant upper stage booster and then prepared for
transportation to the launch pad.
Meanwhile, at Launch Complex 17, the Delta II rocket will be
undergoing erection and prelaunch checkout on Pad B. The first
stage is scheduled to be installed into the launcher on November
23. Four solid rocket boosters will be attached around the base
of the first stage beginning on November 25. The second stage
will be mated atop the first stage on December 2, and the fairing
will be hoisted into the clean room of the pad's mobile service
tower December 3.
The Mars Polar Lander with its upper stage booster will be
transported to Complex 17 on December 21 for hoisting atop the
Delta and mating to the second stage. After the spacecraft
undergoes a state of health check, the spacecraft will be closed
out for flight and on December 29 the two halves of the Delta
nose fairing placed around it. At liftoff, the spacecraft weighs
567 kilograms (1,270 pounds), is 1.06 meter (3.6 feet) tall and
3.6 meters (12 feet) long.
Launch is planned to occur at the opening of an
instantaneous launch window on January 3 at 3:31 p.m. EST. The
nominal launch period is divided into an eight-day primary period
January 3-10, followed by a six-day secondary launch period
January 11-16. The planetary window closes on January 27, 1999.
After an 11-month cruise phase, the Mars Polar Lander will
arrive at the planet and begin its descent to the surface. An
imager onboard the spacecraft will take high-resolution
photographs during the descent to the surface to establish the
geological and physical context of the landing site. A robotic
arm will be powered up soon after landing to begin exploring this
unknown region with an elaborate, 2-meter-long (6.6-foot) robotic
scoop, which will dig shallow trenches to further investigate
Mars' climatic history.
The lander also will conduct soil analysis experiments on
the surface, using a small "chemistry set" and "oven" to
determine the thermal properties and evolved gasses in frozen
water and dust. Martian surface temperatures, winds, pressure
and the amount of dust in the atmosphere will be measured on a
daily basis, while a small microphone records the sounds of wind
gusts or mechanical operations onboard the spacecraft.
The Mars Polar Lander and Mars Climate Orbiter missions are
managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Office of
Space Science, Washington, DC. JPL is a division of the
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA. Lockheed
Martin Astronautics, Denver CO, is JPL's space industry partner
in the mission. Launch is the responsibility of NASA's John F.
Kennedy Space Center. The Boeing Company is KSC's space industry
partner in launch operations.