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The Mission
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This image shows the tail end of an enormous jumbo jet that is wide open from the back, and 10 people are standing to the sides as a white cargo container with logos of NASA, JPL, and Mars Global Surveyor is rolling out the back of the plane.  The black night sky in the background is electrified with a surprising white lightning streak blazing in a squiggling arc around the C-17.  The lightning turns the sky a deep purple in a haze around the shark-looking tail of the plane.
Pre-launch: Spacecraft Arrival at Kennedy Space Center
Image credit: NASA/JPL/KSC

The phases of the mission include:

Pre-launch Activities Preparation for the mission, including assembly and testing, and delivery to Cape Canaveral
Launch Lift-off from Earth
Cruise Voyage through space to Mars
Mars Orbit Insertion Capturing the spacecraft into orbit around Mars
Aerobraking Slowing down in the martian atmosphere and settling into a lower, circular orbit for science-data collecting
Science Operations Gathering information about Mars through the day-to-day activities of the orbiter
Communications Relay Using the orbiter to communicate with other landed missions
End of Mission  
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