The first of two Mars Exploration Rovers, MER-A,
is targeted for launch no earlier than Sunday, June 8 at 2:05:55
p.m. EDT. Liftoff will occur aboard a Boeing Delta II launch
vehicle from Pad A at Space Launch Complex 17 on Cape Canaveral Air
Force Station. A second launch opportunity exists at 2:44:07 p.m.
EDT, if necessary.
Should launch be delayed by 24 hours, the two launch times
available are 2:02:23 p.m. and 2:40:30 p.m. EDT. The planetary
launch period window extends through June 19. The second of the two
rovers, MER-B, is scheduled to launch June 25.
MER-A will reach Mars on Jan. 4, 2004, and MER-B on Jan. 25. The
two MER missions seek to determine the history of climate and water
at two sites on Mars where conditions may once have been favorable
to life. Both rovers are identical.
Each rover carries five scientific instruments including a
panoramic camera and microscope, plus a rock abrasion tool that
will grind away the outer surfaces of rocks to expose their
interiors for examination. The rovers each weigh approximately 400
pounds. They will navigate themselves around obstacles as they
drive across the Martian surface, traveling up to about 130 feet
each Martian day. Each rover's prime mission is planned to last
three months on Mars.