The launch of NASA's second Mars rover has been delayed until at least Saturday because of problems found in the cork insulation on the Delta II rocket that will ferry the unmanned craft into space.
"During routine inspections, they saw some cracking of that insulation. It did not appear to be adhering like it should," said George Diller, a spokesman for Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The insulation is on the rocket's first stage — the bottom part of the rocket that contains an engine and large amounts of fuel. It protects that stage during launch and as the rocket hurtles through the Earth's atmosphere. The faulty insulation will be replaced and similar material elsewhere on the first stage also will be inspected, Diller said.
Work on the rocket has been hampered by heavy rains that pelted the Florida coast over the weekend. This is the second delay for the launch, which was originally scheduled for June 25.
The Saturday launch is scheduled for 11:56 p.m. EDT with a backup launch time of 12:37 a.m. EDT Sunday. The launch window to reach Mars extends until July 15.
The first rover, called Spirit, was launched June 10. It is speeding toward Mars at about 72,000 mph. It is expected to arrive on Mars the evening of Jan. 3.
The second rover, Opportunity, is due to arrive at Mars on Jan. 25.