Mars launch delayed until Saturday

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA pushed back Wednesday's launch of the latest Mars rover until at least Saturday so workers can figure out why cork insulation is not sticking properly to the skin of the rocket.

The announcement Monday marked the fourth delay in a week for the launch of the rover Opportunity.

Opportunity and its sister rover, Spirit, which was launched earlier this month, will ramble across the rocky surface of Mars, looking for evidence of whether the Red Planet ever had enough water to sustain life.

The rovers are expected to arrive on Mars in January.

The launch of Opportunity had already been postponed last week because the adhesive was not bonding with the cork. The cork was replaced, but the problem reappeared Sunday.

A band of cork, about 2 feet wide and a quarter-inch thick, is designed to insulate the rocket from excessive heat from the solid fuel boosters. Workers planned to replace 10 percent of the band in addition to running the tests.

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