Storms in Florida delay Nasa mission to Mars

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The Independent Online

Storms delayed Nasa's long-awaited mission to Mars at Cape Canaveral last night.

The launch of a £241m rover,Spirit, was postponed until today. It is due to blast off from a Boeing Delta II in Florida in search of water on the Red Planet. A second rover, Opportunity, is to be launched on 25 June. They are due to arrive in January 2004, just weeks after a European mission, Mars Express, containing the British-built lander Beagle-2, has touched down there. The US rovers will act as robotic geologists, moving on six wheels. Each is equipped with a pair of panoramic cameras, a camera for close-ups and a drill to sample rocks.

Sean O'Keefe, a Nasa administrator, said: "We sincerely hope it will be one of the first great 21st-century voyages of exploration." A Japanese mission is also on its way to Mars and two Nasa satellites are already in orbit there.