Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Pathfinder, a pair of NASA spacecraft scheduled to be launched toward the red planet on McDonnell Douglas Delta II rockets late this year, have arrived at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., to begin preparations for launch.
The Mars Global Surveyor will be placed in orbit around Mars. It holds a set of six instruments to study the planet's surface, atmosphere, gravitational and magnetic fields. The Mars Pathfinder will be deployed through the Martian atmosphere to land on the planet's surface, where it will deliver a small instrumented rover to investigate the terrain surrounding the spacecraft. Together, Mars Pathfinder and its rover will investigate the geology and elemental composition of the Martian rocks and soil, as well as the Martian atmosphere and surface weather.
"The arrival of the two Mars spacecraft at the launch site is a wonderful milestone of which the whole Mars missions team can be very proud," said Dr. Jurgen Rahe, director of Solar System Exploration at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. "It reminds us just how close we are to returning important new scientific knowledge about the red planet back to Earth."
Mars Global Surveyor, which weighs 1,050 kilograms (2,315 pounds) and was built by Lockheed Martin Astronautics in Denver, Colo., arrived at Cape Canaveral aboard an Air Force C-17 cargo plane at 3:25 a.m Eastern time. The spacecraft was unloaded and taken to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF), which is located in the Kennedy Space Center industrial area, for the beginning of launch preparations.
The Mars Pathfinder spacecraft, built for NASA by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, arrived at the Spacecraft Assembly and Encapsulation Facility (SAEF-2) at Kennedy Space Center at 3 p.m. Eastern time yesterday (Aug. 13), having traveled across the United States in a special van. Presently three of Pathfinder's four separate components have arrived at KSC: the cruise stage, the aeroshell and the lander. The fourth element, the small rover known as "Sojourner," will be shipped by air from California and is scheduled to arrive on Friday, Aug. 23.
During the time Mars Global Surveyor is housed in KSC's Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility, it will undergo final instrument functional tests and electrical system testing. The spacecraft's batteries and thermal insulation will also be installed and the spacecraft will be fueled with its control propellants. Then it will be mated to its solid propellant "upper stage," which is the Delta third stage booster.
Mars Global Surveyor is scheduled to be transported from the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility to Complex 17 on Oct. 23, where it will be hoisted atop the Delta launch vehicle. After integrated testing is complete, a 2.9-meter (9.5-foot) diameter nose fairing around the spacecraft.
Launch of Mars Global Surveyor is scheduled for Nov. 6 at 12:11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time at the beginning of a 20-day launch period which ends on Nov. 25. The spacecraft will arrive at Mars in September 1997 to begin a mission which is planned to last one Martian year or the equivalent of 687 Earth days.
The integration of the four Mars Pathfinder elements will begin with installation of the rover on one of the four petals of the lander. After the petals are closed, the aeroshell which surrounds and protects the lander will be installed and the parachutes will be attached. This assembled entry vehicle will then be mated to the cruise stage that will carry the spacecraft on its interplanetary trajectory. Finally, before going to the launch pad, the completed Mars Pathfinder will be mated to the upper stage booster. The entire integration process will take approximately three months.
The Mars Pathfinder/Delta third stage combination will then be transported to Pad 17-B for erection atop the Delta on Nov. 21. After integrated testing, the fairing will be placed around the spacecraft. Launch is scheduled to occur on Dec. 2 at 2:09 a.m. Eastern time at the beginning of a 24-day launch period that ends on Dec. 25. Landing on Mars is planned to occur on July 4, 1997. Once on the planet's surface, the mission is expected to last approximately one month.