SUMMARY: After a picture perfect launch Monday afternoon, the European Space Agency's Mars Express is now headed towards the Red Planet. The spacecraft, attached to the top of a 4-stage Russian Soyuz-Fregat rocket, lifted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome at 1745 GMT. Over the course of the next 90 minutes, the rocket shed each one of its four stages during an orbit around the Earth and then hurled the Mars Express into its planned trajectory. Mars Express communicated back with European Space Operations at 1944 GMT. The probe's solar arrays had deployed properly, its batteries are working, and the spacecraft seems to be working normally. It will reach Mars in another six months.

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