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NASA Launches Mars Orbiter

12 August 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. space agency today launched the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the largest and most sophisticated probe ever sent to the red planet.

A glitch in computer software and sensors that monitor the fueling of the rocket used during liftoff forced NASA to delay the launch, which had been scheduled for earlier this week.

Scientists hope the $720-million unmanned spacecraft will provide unprecedented information on the planet's weather, climate, and geology. The orbiter is expected to arrive at its destination in March and spend at least four years circling Mars.

If the Mars orbiter is successful, NASA plans to send two additional probes to the planet's surface for further research.

(compiled from agency reports)

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