Delta II, a rocket that helped us explore Mars, will go on display at Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s Rocket Garden is getting a new member: United Launch Alliance’s storied Delta II rocket.

After the final Delta II rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California Saturday morning, ULA president and CEO Tory Bruno made a surprise announcement. Another Delta II remains, and it’s heading to Cape Canaveral.

“The Delta II rocket has been a venerable workhorse for NASA and civilian scientists, the U.S. military, and commercial clients throughout its almost 30 years of service,” Bruno said in a press release. “This program comes to a close with the final launch of NASA’s ICESat-2, but its legacy will continue and the Visitor Complex will help us keep the story of the success of this much-revered rocket in the hearts and minds of the public.”

A Delta II rocket launched NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite, or ICESat-2, into orbit at about 6 a.m. Pacific Time Saturday. The satellite will circle the Earth, using a laser to measure the height of ice on Earth. The measurements will allow scientists to ascertain how far ice extends above bodies of water — and whether its melting.

The mission, the 153rd successful launch for Delta II out of 155, marks the close of a program that began on Valentine’s Day 1989, when it sent into orbit a navigation satellite that laid the groundwork for today’s GPS systems. Since, three versions of Delta II have sent several noteworthy payloads into space, both from the East and West coasts.

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