August 9, 2005

NASA delays Mars orbiter launch at least 24 hours

MIAMI (Reuters) - NASA has delayed Wednesday's launch of an
unmanned spacecraft to Mars because of a technical problem that
might affect its launch vehicle, the agency said on Tuesday.

The launch of the two-ton Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on
top of a Lockheed Martin Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air
Force Station will be postponed for at least 24 hours, said
spokesman George Diller.

Engineers found a failure in the navigational controls of a
similar Atlas V launch vehicle and need to make sure the
problem does not affect the one being used for the Mars
spacecraft, NASA said.

The orbiter's mission, now due to launch at the earliest
between 7:50 a.m. and 9:35 a.m. EDT on Thursday, will be to
learn whether Mars had water long enough to nurture life.
Previous Mars missions have shown that water once flowed across
the planet's surface.

The 21-foot (6.5-meter) Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is
scheduled to reach the planet in March 2006.

It will use an array of scientific instruments to zoom in
for close-up photos of the Martian surface, analyze mineral
deposits, search for subsurface water and shorelines of ancient
seas, trace dust and water distribution in the atmosphere and
monitor the weather through a full cycle of Martian seasons.