Millions Tag Along for NASA’s Mars 2020 Mission

"Send Your Name to Mars" logo installation
The “Send Your Name to Mars” logo is installed on the Mars Perseverance rover on March 16, 2020, inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/JPL

When the Mars Perseverance rover begins its seven-month journey to the Red Planet in mid-July, it will be carrying the names of more than 10 million people throughout the world.

Those names were etched onto three microchips, which were placed aboard Perseverance. On March 16, 2020, inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the “Names to Mars” logo was installed on the rover.

Those who took advantage of the special public promotion also had the opportunity to receive a souvenir boarding pass and obtain “frequent flyer points” as part of humanity’s first round trip to another planet. In total, 10,932,295 people submitted their names. Turkey (2,528,844), India (1,778,277) and the United States (1,733,559) all had more than 1 million submissions.

NASA's Mars Perseverance rover at Kennedy Space Center
More than 10 million names were etched onto three microchips, which were placed aboard Perseverance. Photo credit: NASA/JPL

Perseverance will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.

The rover will land on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021. Liftoff aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket is targeted for mid-July from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch.

Weighing more than 2,300 pounds, Perseverance is about the size of a car, with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover. It was developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program.

Earlier this month at Kennedy, activities to measure mass properties of the Cruise Stage vehicle were performed on the spin table inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. Successful testing also was performed on NASA’s Mars Helicopter, which will be attached to Perseverance. The helicopter will be the first aircraft to fly on another planet.

Please visit the mission’s website for more information on the Mars 2020 mission.

NASA Shows Perseverance with Helicopter, Cruise Stage Testing

NASA’s Mars Helicopter and its cruise stage undergo functional testing in the airlock inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on March 10, 2020.
NASA’s Mars Helicopter and its cruise stage undergo functional testing in the airlock inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on March 10, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

The Mars 2020 mission involving NASA’s newly named rover — Perseverance — received a significant boost following the completion of important testing at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Activities to measure mass properties of the Cruise Stage vehicle were performed on the spin table inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. Successful testing also was performed on NASA’s Mars Helicopter, which will be attached to Perseverance. The functional test (50 RPM spin) was executed on the stand in the airlock. This marked the last time the rotor blades will be operated until the rover reaches the Martian surface.

The NASA Mars Helicopter will be the first aircraft to fly on another planet. The twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter will remain encapsulated after landing, deploying once mission managers determine an acceptable area to conduct test flights.

NASA’s Mars Helicopter and its cruise stage undergo functional testing in the airlock inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on March 10, 2020.
The NASA Mars Helicopter will be the first aircraft to fly on another planet. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

On March 5, 2020, NASA announced Perseverance as the new name for the ars 2020 rover. Alexander Mather, a seventh-grader from Virginia, provided the winning name for the rover with his entry in the agency’s Name the Rover essay contest.

Perseverance will land on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021. Liftoff aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket is targeted for mid-July from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch.

About the size of a car with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover, Perseverance was developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. The mission aims to search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth and pave the way for human exploration of Mars.

For more in-depth information, visit the mission’s website.

Mars 2020 Rover Undergoing Processing at Florida Spaceport

Mars 2020 rover at Kennedy Space Center
The launch of the Mars 2020 rover is targeted for mid-July. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Soon after its arrival to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center last week, the Mars 2020 rover was moved to the Florida spaceport’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility, where it has been undergoing processing for its mission later this year. The spacecraft was flown to Kennedy from California aboard a C-17 aircraft on Feb. 12.

Targeted for mid-July 2020, the mission will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The launch is managed by the Launch Services Program.

The Mars 2020 rover will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth and pave the way for human exploration of Mars.

Mars 2020 Rover Makes its Way to Kennedy

Mars 2020 rover arrival at Kennedy
The Mars 2020 rover is offloaded from a C-17 aircraft at the Launch and Landing Facility, formerly the Shuttle Landing Facility, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Feb. 12, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

Leaving from its temporary home at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, the Mars 2020 rover completed a cross-country trip Wednesday afternoon. It arrived on a C-17 aircraft to the Launch and Landing Facility (formerly the Shuttle Landing Facility) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Mars 2020 rover delivered to Kennedy Space Center
After its arrival at Kennedy from California, the Mars 2020 rover is prepared to be moved to the Florida spaceport’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility for unboxing. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

The spacecraft was then moved to Kennedy’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF), where it is being unboxed today. Before making the trek to the Florida spaceport, the Mars 2020 rover traveled about 70 miles southeast from JPL to March Air Reserve Base.

Carrying seven different scientific instruments, the Mars 2020 rover will land on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021. Liftoff, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket, is targeted for mid-July from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch.

About the size of a car with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover, the Mars 2020 rover was developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. The mission aims to search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth and pave the way for human exploration of Mars.

Last month, multiple important tests were performed on the Mars 2020 rover aeroshell inside the PHSF, including measuring the center of gravity and moments of inertia on the spin table, as well as lift activities. The rover’s heat shield and back shell arrived at Kennedy from Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, Colorado, on Dec. 11, 2019. The spacecraft was manufactured at JPL.

Check out the mission’s website for more in-depth information on the Mars 2020 rover.

Solar Orbiter Embarks on Ambitious Mission to Face the Sun

Liftoff of the Atlas V rocket with the Solar Orbiter spacecraft from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Liftoff of the Atlas V rocket with the Solar Orbiter spacecraft from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The Solar Orbiter spacecraft is heading toward the Sun after a late-night launch from Florida’s Space Coast aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. The vehicle lifted off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 11:03 p.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 9.

After a nominal ascent, the spacecraft separated from the rocket’s Centaur upper stage. At 12:24 a.m. Monday, mission controllers at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, received a signal from the spacecraft indicating that its solar panels had successfully deployed and were drawing power.

“The spacecraft is safe and pointing to the Sun,” said European Space Agency’s (ESA) Cesar Garcia, program manager for Solar Orbiter.

Solar Orbiter is beginning a seven-year mission to study the environment directly surrounding the spacecraft while also observing the Sun, giving scientists a better understanding of how our star can affect the space environment throughout the solar system. The spacecraft also will be the first to provide images of the Sun’s poles.

Before the science phase of the mission can begin, Solar Orbiter will undergo a series of checkouts, from initial deployments and checks of the spacecraft’s systems to turning on and checking its suite of 10 science instruments. According to Garcia, the testing phase should be finalized around the end of June 2020.

Solar Orbiter is a cooperative mission between the ESA and NASA. ESA’s Engineering & Test Center (ESTEC) in The Netherlands managed the development effort. The spacecraft has been developed by Airbus. The European Space Operations Center (ESOC) in Germany will operate Solar Orbiter. The Solar Orbiter mission is managed by ESA; the scientific payload elements of Solar Orbiter are being provided by ESA Member States, NASA and ESA. United Launch Alliance of Centennial, Colorado, provided the Atlas V launch service.

NASA Launch Director Tim Dunn of the agency’s Launch Services Program, which had responsibility for launch management, credited the combined efforts of the ULA, ESA and NASA teams to overcome challenges to make the launch successful.

“This is an international collaboration 10-plus years in the making,” Dunn said. “When a team is focused on mission success, that’s a language that we all speak.”

Atlas V Rocket, Solar Orbiter Spacecraft Arrive at Launch Pad

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Solar Orbiter spacecraft arrives at the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Feb. 8, 2020.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Solar Orbiter spacecraft arrives at the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Feb. 8, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Solar Orbiter spacecraft departs the Vertical Integration Facility for the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Feb. 8, 2020.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Solar Orbiter spacecraft departs the Vertical Integration Facility for the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Feb. 8, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Solar Orbiter spacecraft has made its final move on Earth: the short journey from the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Liftoff is targeted for 11:03 p.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 9. There is a two-hour launch window.

The weather forecast for launch time calls for favorable conditions. Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing continue to predict an 80% chance of weather cooperating for launch.

Live coverage of the countdown and liftoff will begin at 10:30 p.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 9, on NASA TV, NASA TV online, and on NASA’s Solar Orbiter blog.

Solar Orbiter is an international collaborative mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. The spacecraft will observe the Sun with high spatial resolution telescopes and capture observations in the environment directly surrounding the spacecraft to create a one-of-a-kind picture of how the Sun can affect the space environment throughout the solar system. The spacecraft also will provide the first-ever images of the Sun’s poles and the never-before-observed magnetic environment there, which helps drive the Sun’s 11-year solar cycle and its periodic outpouring of solar storms.

Solar Orbiter “Go” for Launch on Sunday, Feb. 9

Members of the Goddard Space Flight Center Solar Orbiter Collaboration Project Office, along with Launch Services Program’s (LSP) Jim Behling (back left), launch site integration manager, pose in front of the Solar Orbiter spacecraft inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida.
Members of the Goddard Space Flight Center Solar Orbiter Collaboration Project Office, along with Launch Services Program’s (LSP) Jim Behling (back left), launch site integration manager, pose in front of the Solar Orbiter spacecraft inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray

Solar Orbiter, an international collaborative mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA, has been given the “go” for launch on Sunday, Feb. 9, aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is targeted for 11:03 p.m. EST.

The mission was cleared to proceed during the launch readiness review held Friday morning at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center. ESA, NASA and ULA officials evaluated the status of the spacecraft, rocket and ground-based assets needed to support launch. All parties were “go” at the review, according to NASA Launch Director Tim Dunn.

Weather conditions at launch time are expected to be favorable, with an 80% chance of meeting all the criteria for liftoff. Weather Officer Jessica Williams of the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predicts a high pressure moving into the area in the wake of a cold front will keep clouds and moisture at bay for several days. An onshore flow from the east could bring in some cumulus clouds and ground winds, and those are the primary weather concerns for launch on Sunday.

The Atlas V rocket, topped by the payload fairing containing the Solar Orbiter spacecraft, is scheduled to roll from the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 on Saturday morning, Feb. 8. NASA EDGE will provide live coverage of the rollout from 10:15 to 10:45 a.m. Watch live on Facebook or YouTube.

Coverage of the countdown and liftoff will begin at 10:30 p.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 9, on NASA TV, NASA TV online, and on NASA’s Solar Orbiter blog.

Solar Orbiter will observe the Sun with high spatial resolution telescopes and capture observations in the environment directly surrounding the spacecraft to create a one-of-a-kind picture of how the Sun can affect the space environment throughout the solar system. The spacecraft also will provide the first-ever images of the Sun’s poles and the never-before-observed magnetic environment there, which helps drive the Sun’s 11-year solar cycle and its periodic outpouring of solar storms.

Solar Orbiter Launch Weather Forecast 80% Favorable; Televised Briefings Today

Illustration of Solar Orbiter facing the Sun
Solar Orbiter will capture the very first images of the Sun’s polar regions, where magnetic tension builds up and releases in a lively dance. Launching in 2020, Solar Orbiter’s study of the Sun will shed light on its magnetic structure and the many forces that shape solar activity.
Credits: Spacecraft: ESA/ATG medialab; Sun: NASA/SDO/P. Testa (CfA)

Weather forecasters with the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron are predicting an 80 percent chance of favorable conditions for the launch of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the Solar Orbiter spacecraft. Liftoff is slated for Sunday, Feb. 9, at 11:03 p.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The primary weather concerns at launch time are potential violation of the cumulus cloud rule and ground winds.

Launch and mission managers from the European Space Agency (ESA), NASA and ULA are meeting at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the launch readiness review. This is a standard prelaunch review in which all parties review outstanding items and ensure the rocket, spacecraft and teams are “go” for launch.

Two televised briefings are planned for today:

1 to 2 p.m. EST: Prelaunch news conference
Participants:

  • Cesar Garcia, Solar Orbiter Project Manager, European Space Agency
  • Ian Walters, Project Manager Solar Orbiter, Airbus Defence and Space
  • Alan Zide, Solar Orbiter Program Executive, NASA Headquarters
  • Tim Dunn, Launch Director, NASA Launch Services Program
  • Scott Messer, NASA LSP Program Manager, United Launch Alliance
  • Jessica Williams, 45th Space Wing Weather Officer

2:30 to 3:30 p.m. EST: Science briefing
Participants:

  • Daniel Mueller, Solar Orbiter Project Scientist, European Space Agency
  • Nicky Fox, Director, NASA Heliophysics Division
  • Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator, NASA Science Mission Directorate
  • Guenther Hasinger, Director of Science, European Space Agency

View on NASA Television or on the web at https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive.

An international collaborative mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA, Solar Orbiter will observe the Sun with high spatial resolution telescopes and capture observations in the environment directly surrounding the spacecraft to create a one-of-a-kind picture of how the Sun can affect the space environment throughout the solar system. The spacecraft also will provide the first-ever images of the Sun’s poles and the never-before-observed magnetic environment there, which helps drive the Sun’s 11-year solar cycle and its periodic outpouring of solar storms.

Tune in Friday for Solar Orbiter Briefings

ESA/NASA’s Solar Orbiter will travel inside the orbit of Mercury and capture the first images of the Sun’s north and south poles.
ESA/NASA’s Solar Orbiter will travel inside the orbit of Mercury and capture the first images of the Sun’s north and south poles. Image Credit: ESA/ATG Medialab

Solar Orbiter, an international collaborative mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA, is slated to launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on Sunday, Feb. 9. Liftoff is targeted for 11:03 p.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Two briefings are planned for Friday, Feb. 7, at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center:

1 to 2 p.m. EST: Prelaunch news conference
Participants:

  • Cesar Garcia, Solar Orbiter Project Manager, European Space Agency
  • Ian Walters, Project Manager Solar Orbiter, Airbus Defence and Space
  • Alan Zide, Solar Orbiter Program Executive, NASA Headquarters
  • Tim Dunn, Launch Director, NASA Launch Services Program
  • Scott Messer, NASA LSP Program Manager, United Launch Alliance
  • Jessica Williams, 45th Space Wing Weather Officer

2:30 to 3:30 p.m. EST: Science briefing
Participants:

  • Daniel Mueller, Solar Orbiter Project Scientist, European Space Agency
  • Nicky Fox, Director, NASA Heliophysics Division
  • Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator, NASA Science Mission Directorate
  • Guenther Hasinger, Director of Science, European Space Agency

View on NASA Television or on the web at https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive.

Solar Orbiter will observe the Sun with high spatial resolution telescopes and capture observations in the environment directly surrounding the spacecraft to create a one-of-a-kind picture of how the Sun can affect the space environment throughout the solar system. The spacecraft also will provide the first-ever images of the Sun’s poles and the never-before-observed magnetic environment there, which helps drive the Sun’s 11-year solar cycle and its periodic outpouring of solar storms.

New Solar Orbiter Launch Date

Solar Orbiter graphicNASA, ESA (European Space Agency), Airbus and United Launch Alliance now are targeting 11:03 p.m. EST Sunday, Feb. 9, for the launch of the Solar Orbiter mission on an Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.  The launch has a two-hour window.

The two-day launch delay was caused by two items that delayed transport of the spacecraft to the pad. The first item was a schedule conflict on Wednesday with a commercial mission launch from a nearby launch pad. The second item was the weather Thursday morning.

The transport of the spacecraft from the processing facility to the launch complex for mate operations now is planned for Friday, Jan. 31.