updated 5/9/2007 7:22:31 PM ET 2007-05-09T23:22:31

The Phoenix Mars Lander, the product of scientists at the University of Arizona, has emerged from its cocoon at Florida's Kennedy Space Center following a flight from Colorado, where it was built.

The spacecraft was flown to the Shuttle Landing Facility by a U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo plane.

Workers used a huge crane on Tuesday to remove the top and sides of a steel container that encased the lander during the trip, said Gary Napier, spokesman with Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Littleton, Colo., Space Systems facility.

They then removed two layers of an amber-colored plastic material designed to protect the lander from possible contamination during the journey, he said.

The lander will undergo final preparations and testing inside the very same clean room where many earlier Mars mission craft were housed before launch, Napier said.

As the Aug. 3 launch date approaches, the Phoenix Mars Lander will be integrated with a Delta II launch vehicle.

The three-stage, 130-foot-tall Delta II has 12 rockets designed to push the 1,500-pound lander out of Earth's gravity. The lander is scheduled to arrive on Mars next May.

The University of Arizona is in charge of the Phoenix Mars mission, with the goal of finding evidence of water and habitable conditions near the red planet's northern polar region.

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