Red Planet Rising: NASA’s Phoenix Probe Launches Towards Mars

NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander lit up the predawn Florida sky Saturday, launching spaceward on a mission to determine whether the planet could have once supported primitive life.
A United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket launched Phoenix towards Mars at 5:26:34 a.m. EDT (0926:34 GMT) from Pad 17A at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The three-stage booster is bound for the flat northern plains of Vastitas Borealis near the martian north pole, where it is expected to dig into and sample the region’s icy soil with its eight-foot (2.4-meter) robotic arm.
“It’s a wonderful morning to go to Mars,” NASA’s Phoenix project manager Barry Goldstein, of the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), just before liftoff. As predicted, weather conditions were pristine for the early morning space shot. The launch was delayed 24 hours earlier this week due to bad weather during rocket fueling.
Just after the supersonic crackle of the launch, Phoenix officials let out gasps of excitement as the rocket careened toward Mars.