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[b]Phoenix Set for Early Liftoff Saturday[/b]
Attempts: 5:26 and 6:02 a.m. EDT
Poised atop a Delta II rocket, the Phoenix spacecraft is on track for an early-morning liftoff and the beginning of its journey toward Mars. The weather forecast remains favorable, with only a 20 percent chance of violations at launch time. At the Phoenix prelaunch news conference on Thursday, NASA's Launch Director Chuck Dovale reported that the launch team is ready to go. Weather Officer Joel Tumbiolo said the forecast calls for scattered clouds, light ground and upper-level winds, and good visibility.
The launch preparations got back on track after a one-day delay because of severe weather in the vicinity of the launch pad on Tuesday that prevented the Delta II launch team from completing the fueling of the rocket's second stage.
The Phoenix Mars lander's assignment is to dig through the Martian soil and ice in the arctic region and use its onboard scientific instruments to analyze the samples it retrieves.
Both rocket and spacecraft have been undergoing final preparation at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
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