FILE PHOTO -- Looking like a Roman candle, the exhaust from an Air Force Delta II rocket with the Mars Polar Lander aboard lights up the clouds as it hurtles skyward. The lander is a solar-powered spacecraft designed to touch down on the Martian surface near the northern-most boundary of the south polar cap. The lander will study the polar water cycle, frosts, water vapor, condensates and dust in the Martian atmosphere. It is equipped with a robotic arm to dig beneath the layered terrain. In addition, Deep Space 2 microprobes, developed by NASA's New Millennium Program, are installed on the lander's cruise stage. After crashing into the planet's surface, they will conduct two days of soil and water experiments up to 1 meter below the Martian surface, testing new technologies for future planetary descent probes. The lander is the second spacecraft to be launched in a pair of Mars Surveyor '98 missions. The first is the Mars Climate Orbiter, which was launched aboard a Delta II rocket from Launch Complex 17A on Dec. 11, 1998.
October 15, 2012
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