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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1999 > Jan > Jan 2

Mars Probe To Launch Sunday

From: Steven L. Wilson Sr <Ndunlks@aol.com>
Date: Sat, 2 Jan 1999 00:44:57 EST
Fwd Date: Sat, 02 Jan 1999 11:16:44 -0500
Subject: Mars Probe To Launch Sunday

NASA Launches New Probe of Red Planet
To the Martian Pole

By Kenneth Chang

Jan. 1 -- New Year, time for a new mission to Mars.     

Next up in NASA=92s continuing barrage of spacecraft to the Red
Planet is Mars Polar Lander, which will be the first probe to
land near one of the poles.

Was Mars Warm and Wet?
A companion spacecraft, the Mars Climate Orbiter, was launched
last month. These latest missions are designed to explore the
history of the Martian climate. While they won=92t directly look
for life, they will look at whether the conditions hospitable to
life once existed on the planet.

Launch opportunities (all times EST)

Jan. 3  3:21:10 pm
Jan. 4  3:13:34 pm
Jan. 5  3:05:42 pm
Jan. 6  2:57:33 pm
Jan. 7  2:49:03 pm
Jan. 8  2:40:03 pm
Jan. 9  2:30:05 pm
Jan. 10  2:19:08 pm
Jan. 11  2:22:03 pm
Jan. 12  2:25:59 pm
Jan. 13  2:43:06 pm
Jan. 14  2:47:10 pm
Jan. 15  2:27:55 pm
Jan. 16  2:35:07 pm
Jan. 17  2:25:28 pm
Jan. 18  2:15:32 pm
Jan. 19  2:05:15 pm
Jan. 20  1:54:44 pm
Jan. 21  1:51:40 pm
Jan. 22  1:41:11 pm
Jan. 23  1:30:17 pm
Jan. 24  1:19:18 pm
Jan. 25  1:08:05 pm
Jan. 26  12:56:41 pm
Jan. 27  12:53:45 pm

Equipment on Mars Polar Lander, which will land at Mars in
December, includes a robotic arm that will scoop up a few inches
of soil for chemical analysis, weather-observing instruments and
a microphone that will be the first to pick up and broadcast
sounds from another planet.

Beneath the Surface
Also on Mars Polar Lander are two basketball-size probes that
will detach from the main spacecraft about five minutes before
entering the Martian atmosphere and then literally crash into
the planet at about 400 miles per hour. That will allow the part
of the probes to penetrate three feet into the Martian soil in
an effort to find frozen water there.

One of the mysteries of Mars is whether all its water has gone.
Huge floods almost certainly carved the gigantic canyons on the
Martian surface, but today the surface is dry. The polar ice
caps contain only a fraction of the water believed to have once
bathed the planet. Many planetary scientists believe the rest of
the water is frozen beneath the surface.

In order to line up the trajectory of Mars Polar Lander with its
destination near the Martian south pole, its launch has to timed
literally to the second. The first chance to launch comes Sunday
10 seconds after 3:21 pm EST. These near-instantaneous
once-a-day launch opportunities continue through Jan. 27.

Weather predictions gave a 30 percent chance of a launch on
Sunday, 60 percent on Monday.

Cost Cutter
Mars Polar Lander continues NASA=92s trend of packing more into
less. Mars Polar Lander and Climate Orbiter cost a combined $190
million -- two missions for less than the $262 million price tag
of Mars Pathfinder two years ago, which itself was a remarkable
cost cutter compared to earlier NASA missions. The failed Mars
Observor mission that disappeared without a trace in 1993 cost
$1 billion.

Here=92s an overview of Mars Polar Lander:

Spacecraft Facts

What: Mars Polar Lander

Why: To explore the environment near the Martian south pole.

When: Scheduled for launch 3:21 pm, Jan. 3 from Cape Canaveral,

Destination: After a 11-month journey, the spacecraft will enter
the Martian atmosphere Dec. 3, 1999 and land near the Martian
south pole.

Size: 3.5 feet tall, 12 feet wide
Weight: 1,270 lbs.
Mission cost: Together with Mars Climate Orbiter, $190 million

Copyright =A91998 ABCNEWS and Starwave Corporation.

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