The first major step toward NASA’s return of a spacecraft to
an orbit around Mars was achieved late Thursday night, Jan. 4,
when the Mars Odyssey spacecraft arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space
Center in Florida. The spacecraft was shipped aboard an Air
Force C-17 cargo airplane from Denver, Colo., location of the
Lockheed Martin plant where the spacecraft was built. The
project is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena,

Mars Odyssey was moved on a transport trailer from the
Shuttle Landing Facility to the Kennedy Space Center’s Spacecraft
Assembly and Encapsulation Facility 2, where it will undergo
final assembly and checkout. This includes installation of two
of the three science instruments, integration of the three-panel
solar array, and a spacecraft functional test. It will be fueled
and then mated to an upper stage booster, the final activities
before going to the launch pad.

Launch is planned for April 7, the first day of a 21-day
launch opportunity. Mars Odyssey will be inserted into an
interplanetary trajectory by a Boeing Delta II launch vehicle
from Pad A at Complex 17. The spacecraft will arrive at Mars on
Oct. 20, 2001, for insertion into an initial elliptical capture
orbit. Its final operational altitude at Mars will be a 400
kilometer-high (250 mile-) Sun-synchronous polar orbit. Mars
Odyssey will conduct a two-year mission in Mars orbit mapping the
planet’s surface and measuring its environment.

“Ultimately, the spacecraft could contribute significantly
toward understanding what may be necessary for a more
sophisticated exploration of Mars, and perhaps an eventual human
visit,” said Mars Odyssey Project Manger George Pace of JPL.

The program management of the Mars Odyssey mission is by the
Office of Space Science at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
The launch is managed by NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.