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NASA Prepares Missions to Launch

NASA Prepares Missions to Launch
In clean room C of Astrotech's Payload Processing Facility, a worker wearing a "bunny suit," or clean-room attire, looks over the Dawn spacecraft after removing the protective cover, at bottom right. In the clean room, the spacecraft will undergo further processing. Dawn's mission is to explore two of the asteroid belt's most intriguing and dissimilar occupants: asteroid Vesta and the dwarf planet Ceres. Photo
(Image: © NASA/George Shelton)

CAPE CANAVERAL ? Two NASA science missions, one toMars and the other to a pair of asteroids, remain on schedule for mid-summerlaunches.

 

The Delta II rocket that will carry the Dawn spacecraftto the asteroid belt went to the booster processing facility Wednesday, whereit will be fitted with the explosives that will destroy the rocket if it fliesoff course and threatens a populated area.

 

The Dawn mission is set to blast off June 30, United LaunchAlliance manager of launch operations Larry Penepentsaid Wednesday.

 

"We're scheduled to transfer this today, and we've transferredit today," Penepent said.

 

Dawn will visit two of the solar system's largestasteroids, which have remained intact since they formed. Ceres and Vesta are in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.They evolved very differently and could provide clues to the formation of oursolar system.

 

Meanwhile, Phoenixis scheduled to launch Aug. 3 on a mission to an ice-rich region on Mars' north pole.

 

Technicians on Wednesday tested the engine control systems.With a robotic arm, Phoenix will search for water and evidence of conditions that could support life.

 

Additionally, an Air Force global positioning systemsatellite is scheduled to launch on another Delta IIrocket as early as the end of August.

 

Published under license from FLORIDA TODAY. Copyright © 2006FLORIDA TODAY. No portion of this material may be reproduced in any waywithout the written consent of FLORIDA TODAY.

 

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