By Maj. Tom Deall, Air Reserve Personnel Center Public Affairs

DENVER (AFPN) — A 315th Airlift Wing C-17 Globemaster III aircrew from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., transported the 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft from Buckley AFB, Colo., to Cape Canaveral at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Jan. 4.
The Odyssey spacecraft, costing more than $176 million, is destined for the planet Mars. With a launch date of April 7, the craft will travel more than 400 million miles, said program manager Bob Berry of Lockheed Martin. However, to make the voyage, the spacecraft had to go to Florida for processing and loading on a Delta II rocket.
"The Delta II rocket gets the Odyssey spacecraft on its way," said Jack Farmerie Jr., a Lockheed Martin spacecraft technician. "The rocket provides a three-stage operation during which it releases the Odyssey in the final stage."
Like a bullet, the Odyssey is shot toward Mars where it spends the next seven months in flight until reaching its final destination, Farmerie said. To do this, the spacecraft travels more than 15,000 mph. Once near the red planet and before starting the Mars orbit insertion, the spacecraft must begin aerobraking.
"Over a period of 76 days, the craft slows down to enter the elliptical orbit," Berry said. "There, the Odyssey will remain while scientists collect information here on Earth about Mars."
At 8 feet high, 6 feet wide and weighing 1,650 pounds fully loaded, the Odyssey has the capability of sending data back to Earth in only 15 minutes. The spacecraft also has an onboard brain that can detect any problems or anomalies allowing scientists days or weeks to react to problems.
The total cost of the operation, including the science payload, navigation equipment, operations, etc., is $300 million.
Master Sgt. Jack Lewis, 701st Airlift Squadron loadmaster, captured the feeling of the entire crew about being assigned the mission.
"Being tasked to fly this mission tells me that we are needed and that we provide a vital role for our nation," Lewis said. "We’re here to move equipment and people for the Air Force. I consider it a compliment to have been asked to do such an important mission. (Courtesy of Air Force Reserve Command News Service)
[Image 1:]
The 2001 Mars Odyssey probe sits on the Buckley Air Force Base, Colo., flightline next to the C-17 Globemaster III that transported it Jan. 4, to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Fisher)
[Image 2:]
An employee at a Lockheed Martin facility in Denver places a protective wrapping around the 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft in preparation to airlift the probe from Buckley Air Force Base, Colo., to Kennedy Space Center, Fla. (Courtesy Photo)