Spirit Lifts Off for Mars

By Marc Boucher
June 10, 2003
Filed under
Spirit Lifts Off for Mars
Boeing Delta II with Mars Exploration Rover A on Pad

A Boeing Delta II carrying the Mars Exploration Rover (MER-A) Spirit successfully lifted off for Mars today at 1:58:47 p.m. EDT (1758:47 GMT). After successive days of delays due to poor weather, conditions improved today for an on-time problem free launch.

The spacecraft went into a circular parking orbit 167 kilometers (104 miles) above Earth where the Delta’s second stage was reignited for about 3 minutes before the third stage ignited pushing the spacecraft toward Mars.

NASA’s Deep Space Network will begin receiving radio signals from Spirit
about 50 minutes after launch, using the network’s Canberra, Australia, antenna complex. 208 days from now on January 4, Spirit will arrive at Mars.

On June 25 NASA will attempt to launch Spirit’s twin, Mars Exploration Rover (MER-B) Opportunity. Opportunity is scheduled to arrive at Mars on January 25, 3 weeks after Spirit. Already in orbit should be the European Space Agency’s Mars Express which is scheduled to arrive December 25 and the Beagle 2 lander should be on Mars.

SpaceRef co-founder, entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, nature lover and deep thinker.