Positivity Pours From NASA’s Mars Perseverance News Conference

Mars 2020 Perseverance rover news conference
A Mars 2020 prelaunch news conference is held at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 27, 2020. Participating in the briefing, from left, are Moderator Bettina Inclan, NASA Headquarters; NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine; Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate; Matt Wallace, deputy project manager, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Launch Director Omar Baez, NASA’s Launch Services Program; and Tory Bruno, CEO, United Launch Alliance. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

With three days to go until liftoff of NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover, everything is on track for Thursday’s planned launch to the Red Planet.

“The launch readiness review is complete and we are indeed ‘go’ for launch,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during Monday’s news conference at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “This has been an amazing team effort.”

Perseverance is scheduled to lift off aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41. The two-hour window opens at 7:50 a.m. EDT. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy, is managing the launch.

The U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron is predicting an 80% chance of favorable weather conditions for Thursday’s launch. The primary weather concerns are cumulus and thick clouds.

The historic mission has remained on track, despite unprecedented challenges from a worldwide pandemic.

“We are in extraordinary times right now with the coronavirus pandemic, and yet we have, in fact, persevered,” Bridenstine said. “And we have protected this mission because it is so important.”

Perseverance is scheduled to lift off aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The two-hour window opens Thursday, July 30, at 7:50 a.m. EDT. Photo credit: NASA/Christian Mangano

Perseverance, which will reach Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, is carrying seven different scientific instruments. The rover’s astrobiology mission, developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, will search for signs of past microbial life. Ingenuity, a twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter attached to the belly of the rover, will become the first aircraft to fly on another world.

“I just couldn’t be happier to be here today and have this amazing mission on top of a rocket and ready to go,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “From this launch readiness review … all the issues are addressed and we are in fact ready now; we’re just counting down and really celebrating with the team.”

Perseverance will collect samples from the Red Planet that could be returned to Earth on a future mission. These samples would provide unprecedented information about the Martian climate and weather.

“We’re doing transformative science; really for the first time, we’re looking for signs of life on another planet,” said Matt Wallace, deputy project manager, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The mission has involved thousands of people in a cross-agency effort that included scientists from around the world. In the U.S., flight hardware was built in 44 states, involving more than 550 cities, towns and communities.

“So no matter where you are in this country, you don’t have to go very far probably to find somebody who has been a part of this mission,” Wallace said. “It’s a tremendous team effort.”

Multiple events will be broadcast Tuesday on NASA Television and the agency’s website: NASA Edge Rollout show, from 10 to 11 a.m.; Mars 2020 Mars Sample Return briefing, from 2 to 3 p.m.; and Mars 2020 Mission Tech and Humans to Mars briefing, from 4 to 5 p.m.

From noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, there will be a briefing featuring Bridenstine, NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard, Kennedy Deputy Director Janet Petro, and astronaut Zena Cardman.

Follow along at blogs.nasa.gov/Mars2020 for live countdown and launch coverage starting Thursday at 7 a.m.

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.

NASA Continues With Important Testing of Mars 2020 Rover Aeroshell

Mars 2020 rover aeroshell spin table tests
At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, tests to measure the center of gravity and moments of inertia for the Mars 2020 rover aeroshell are performed on the spin table inside the Florida spaceport’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Tests to measure the center of gravity and moments of inertia for the Mars 2020 rover aeroshell were performed on the spin table inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The rover is being manufactured at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and, once complete, will be delivered to Kennedy in mid-February. The rover’s heat shield and back shell arrived at Kennedy last month.

The mission is scheduled to launch this summer from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch.

Carrying seven different scientific instruments, the Mars 2020 rover will land on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021. More information can be found on the mission’s website.

Mars 2020 Rover’s Heat Shield, Back Shell Arrive at Florida Spaceport

Mars 2020 heat shield and back shell
The heat shield and back shell for the Mars 2020 rover are unboxed inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 13, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Two vital pieces of equipment for the Mars 2020 rover were flown from Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, Colorado and recently delivered to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center.

The rover’s heat shield and back shell arrived at Kennedy’s Launch and Landing Facility (formerly the Shuttle Landing Facility) on Dec. 11, 2019, and were then transported to the Florida spaceport’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. Built by Lockheed Martin Space, these two essential parts of the spacecraft will protect the rover during its passage to Mars. The Mars 2020 rover is being manufactured at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California and, once complete, will be delivered to Kennedy in mid-February, 2020.

Mars 2020 rover heat shield and back shell unboxing
The heat shield and back shell will protect the Mars 2020 rover during its passage to Mars. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

As the spacecraft descends through the Martian atmosphere, the heat shield will encounter extreme amounts of friction, creating temperatures as high as about 3,200 degrees Fahrenheit. The back shell contains several elements critical to landing the rover, including the parachute and antennas for communication. Some of these key components will be integrated in the months to come by the NASA-JPL team at Kennedy.

The mission is scheduled to launch in the summer of 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket, procured by NASA’s Launch Services Program. It will land on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021.

About the size of a car with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover, the Mars 2020 rover will carry seven different scientific instruments. 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.

Visit the mission website for more information.