NASA’s next Mars rover will take flight this week, if all goes according to plan.
The car-sized Perseverance rover, the centerpiece of NASA’s $2.7 billion Mars 2020 mission, is scheduled to launch Thursday (July 30) during a two-hour window that opens at 7:50 a.m. EDT (1150 GMT). The spacecraft will lift off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
You can watch the spaceflight action live here at Space.com, courtesy of NASA. The space agency will also host a series of daily press conferences and briefings leading up to the launch. You can see that schedule here.
Mission team members have some wiggle room if technical issues or bad weather scuttle the Thursday attempt. Mars 2020 can still make its way to the Red Planet as long as it launches by Aug. 15, NASA officials have said. After that, the mission would have to wait 26 months, until Mars and Earth are properly aligned again for interplanetary journeys.
Whenever it lifts off, Perseverance will touch down inside Mars’ Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021. The 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero hosted a lake and a river delta in the ancient past, and Perseverance will characterize the area in detail and search for possible signs of ancient Mars life. The six-wheeled robot will also collect and cache several dozen samples that will be returned to Earth, possibly as early as 2031, by a joint NASA-European Space Agency campaign.
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SOURCE: Space.com, Mike Wall