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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Aug. 4 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- NASA's Phoenix MarsLander, designed and built by Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT), was successfullylaunched this morning from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 5:26 a.m. EDT aboard a Delta II rocket provided by United Launch Alliance.
Initial contact with the spacecraft, called acquisition of signal, wasobtained at 7:02 a.m. EDT by Lockheed Martin's Flight Operations team at itsSpace Systems Company facility near Denver . Mars is 121 million miles awayfrom Earth today, but Phoenix will travel 422 million miles over its 9 1/2-month journey.
"Our team is extremely proud to deliver mission success for such long-standing customers as NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory," said JimCrocker , vice president of Sensing and Exploration Systems at Lockheed MartinSpace Systems Company. "We have a distinguished history of delivering Marsmissions for NASA and we look forward to seeing the great science Phoenix willdiscover. The Lockheed Martin, JPL and University of Arizona teams have workedclosely together over the last few years to make this mission a success andthis morning's launch is a majestic start to the voyage."
Phoenix is the first mission of NASA's Mars Scout Program. Scheduled toarrive at Mars on May 25, 2008 , the spacecraft will land on the icy northernlatitudes of Mars. During its 90-day primary mission, Phoenix will digtrenches with its robotic arm into the frozen layers of water below thesurface. The spacecraft will use various on-board instruments to analyze thecontents of the ice and soil - checking for the presence of organic compoundsand other conditions favorable for life.
"The entire series of launch-day events went like clockwork. Launch andinitial acquisition is the first of our critical events, and it couldn't havegone smother," said Ed Sedivy , spacecraft program manager at Lockheed MartinSpace Systems Company. "I'm thrilled to be on our way. I couldn't be moreproud of the team of women and men whose hard work and tremendous dedicationare helping make NASA's expanded knowledge of our solar system a reality."