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NASA selects name for next Mars mission

(CNN) -- In homage to a classic 1968 science fiction film, NASA will name its next mission to the red planet "2001 Mars Odyssey," the space agency announced Thursday.

"NASA's next mission to Mars, launching in the year 2001, represents the start of a new wave of exploration at the red planet," said Scott Hubbard, Mars Program Director at NASA Headquarters, Washington, in a statement. "It seemed fitting to name the mission 2001 Mars Odyssey not only in honor of the story and the movie, but also to herald the start of our new long-term journey to explore Mars."

Hubbard added that Arthur C. Clarke, author of "2001: A Space Odyssey," enthusiastically endorsed the new mission name.

The orbiting spacecraft is designed to find out what Mars is made of, detect water and shallow buried ice and study the radiation environment.

2001 Mars Odyssey is scheduled for launch on April 7, 2001, and to arrive at Mars in October 2001.

In August, NASA announced plans to launch twin rovers that will land on Mars in 2003.



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