NASA Administrator ‘Exceptionally Excited’ for Mars-Bound Mission

NASA Administrator's briefing for Mars 2020 Perseverance rover launch
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, far left, conducts a briefing at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 29, 2020, in advance of the launch of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover scheduled for July 30. Joining him, from left are Kennedy Deputy Director Janet Petro, NASA astronaut Zena Cardman, partially hidden, and NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard. Photo credit: NASA/Isaac Watson

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Bursts of Florida afternoon rain showers could not dampen the spirts of NASA leaders on the eve of a much-anticipated mission to Mars.

“I’m exceptionally excited about what we’re about to do because we’re going to launch Mars 2020 with the Perseverance robot,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during Wednesday’s briefing at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center. “But there is so much more going on here. This is the first time in history where we’re going to Mars with an explicit mission to find life on another world — ancient life on Mars.”

The briefing was held outdoors near the Florida spaceport’s iconic countdown clock. A temporary structure installed on the Press Site lawn shielded participants and limited media from the typical Sunshine State summer downpour.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is scheduled to lift off aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket on Thursday, July 30, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida. The two-hour window opens at 7:50 a.m. EDT. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy, is managing the launch.

Despite dealing with significant challenges associated with COVID-19, Kennedy (and its surrounding area) is hosting the second major launch in two months. SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission, carrying NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken to the International Space Station, lifted off from Launch Complex 39A on May 30.

“When we started 2020, we knew we were going to have a big year at the spaceport,” Kennedy Deputy Director Janet Petro said. “And I think the events and the milestones of the next couple days are really going to demonstrate that.”

Developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, the rover will search for signs of past microbial life. Perseverance will reach Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, touching down on the surface of Jezero Crater.

Attached to the belly of the rover and weighing less than four pounds is NASA’s Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity. The twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter will become the first aircraft to fly on another world.

“Ingenuity is going to transform how we think about exploring worlds in the future,” Bridenstine said.

The rover will collect and store a set of rock and soil samples that could be returned to Earth by future Mars sample return missions. It also will test new technologies to benefit future robotic and human exploration of Mars.

“In 2026, we’re going to launch a mission from Earth to Mars to go pick up those samples and bring them back to Earth,” Bridenstine said. “For the first time in history, we’re doing a Mars sample return mission.”

NASA Television and the agency’s website will provide live launch coverage tomorrow morning, starting at 7. Stay tuned as the mission eclipses multiple milestones — including stage separation, main engine cutoff, and spacecraft separation — or follow along at blogs.nasa.gov/Mars2020. NASA will broadcast a post-launch news conference, beginning at 11:30 a.m.

Weather Outlook Remains Positive for Tomorrow Morning’s Liftoff

Students who named Perseverance and Ingenuity
Students Alex Mather, at left, and Vaneeza Rupani, stand near the countdown clock at the News Center at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 28, 2020. Mather named the Perseverance rover, and Rupani named the Ingenuity helicopter. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

With less than 24 hours to go until launch, the weather is doing its part to cooperate.

The U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron is continuing to predict an 80% chance of favorable weather conditions for the Thursday, July 30, liftoff of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, carrying NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. Primary weather concerns for launch are cumulus and thick clouds.

Perseverance is scheduled to blast off tomorrow morning from Space Launch Complex 41 at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The two-hour window opens at 7:50 a.m. EDT. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center, is managing the launch.

Tune in to NASA Television or the agency’s website today at noon to view a briefing with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, live from Kennedy. Follow along at blogs.nasa.gov/Mars2020 for a recap of this afternoon’s event, as well as a preview of live countdown and launch coverage, starting tomorrow at 7 a.m.

Bridenstine Leads Briefing Today on Eve of Perseverance Launch

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at Mars 2020 Perseverance rollout
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine attends the rollout of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket, carrying NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter, as it rolls along to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on July 28, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will conduct a briefing today at noon at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, in advance of Thursday’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover launch.

Also participating in the briefing are: NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard, Kennedy Deputy Director Janet Petro and NASA astronaut Zena Cardman. The event, scheduled for one hour, will be held outdoors, near NASA’s historic countdown clock. It can be viewed on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

The rover is scheduled to lift off aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket on Thursday, July 30, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida. The two-hour window opens at 7:50 a.m. EDT. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy, is managing the launch.

Arriving on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, Perseverance will search for signs of past microbial life and help scientists better understand the geology and climate of Mars. The mission is part of America’s larger Moon to Mars exploration approach that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

Perseverance Remains on Track for Thursday Launch

Mars 2020 Sample Return briefing
Jia-Rui Cook with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory moderates a Mars 2020 Sample Return briefing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 28, 2020. NASA/Kim Shiflett

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

With two days to go until NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover blasts off on its seven-month journey to the Red Planet, everything is proceeding as planned.

On Tuesday, July 28, the rover made the one-third-mile trek from United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vertical Integration Facility to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida. Now positioned at the pad, Perseverance is scheduled to launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket on Thursday, July 30. The two-hour window opens at 7:50 a.m. EDT. NASA’s Launch Services Program, (LSP) based at Kennedy, is managing the launch.

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

Several obstacles — including navigating a worldwide pandemic — have been overcome to keep the mission on schedule.

“COVID has placed a heck of a burden on us to get through this,” Launch Director Omar Baez, LSP, said during Tuesday’s NASA Edge Rollout show. “So it lives up to its name, Perseverance, and we’re living it every day.”

“It has been quite the learning experience for the whole program — and the agency,” Baez continued. “But now, we’re really excited.”

Also Tuesday, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center hosted a pair of live shows highlighting the importance and impact of Perseverance’s mission: a Mars Sample Return briefing and a Mission Technology and Humans to Mars briefing. The rover will collect and store a set of rock and soil samples that could be returned to Earth by future Mars sample return missions.

“We’re looking to accomplish one of the most complex things humanity has ever attempted,” Mars Sample Return Program Director Jeff Gramling said. “With the launch of Perseverance will be the first step in a mission to bring back samples from another planet.”

Developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, the rover will search for signs of past microbial life and help scientists better understand the geology and climate of Mars. Perseverance will reach Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, touching down on the surface of Jezero Crater. Lessons learned from the mission will pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.

Mars Rover Makes its Way to the Launch Pad

Mars 2020 rollout
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket, carrying NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter, rolls along to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on July 28, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Perseverance was on the move.

On Tuesday, July 28, at 10:24 a.m., NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover began the one-third-mile trek from United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vertical Integration Facility to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41. The ULA Atlas V 541 rocket, with Perseverance aboard, was transported at speeds of 3 to 4 miles per hour during the approximately 30-minute trip.

Now positioned at the pad, Perseverance is scheduled to launch from Florida on Thursday, July 30. 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 continuing to predict an 80% chance of favorable weather conditions for the launch. The primary weather concerns for launch are cumulus and thick clouds.

Developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, the rover will search for signs of past microbial life. For more information on Perseverance and its mission, visit the mission website.

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.

Excitement Builds as NASA’s Mars Perseverance Launch Nears

Mars Perseverance rover
The Mars Perseverance rover will lift off aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Thursday, July 30. The two-hour window opens at 7:50 a.m. EDT. Photo credit: NASA

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

A historic mission years in the making is now less than a week from liftoff.

Final preparations are being made for launch of NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover, targeted for Thursday, July 30, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Perseverance will lift off aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 541 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41. The two-hour window opens at 7:50 a.m. EDT.

“It’s hard to describe the feeling of pride and accomplishment — mixed with the excitement and nervous apprehension — that goes with this final stage of the mission,” said John Calvert, Mars 2020 Mission Manager for NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP), which is based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and is managing the launch.

The team has successfully overcome obstacles and challenges along the way, including working through a worldwide pandemic, to remain on schedule for launch.

Mars 2020 Mission Manager John Calvert

“Just throw COVID-19 on the pile of unexpected things that NASA and its incredible teams have been able to respond to and deal with for decades,” Calvert said. “It’s part of our DNA: work hard and solve the problems as they present themselves. Whatever it takes — simple as that.”

Live launch coverage will begin at 7 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website. The broadcast will capture major milestones as Perseverance starts her seven-month journey to the Red Planet. A postlaunch news conference is planned from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Several events leading up to launch also will be broadcast on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

  • Monday, July 27: Prelaunch news conference, from 1 to 2 p.m. NASA Associate Administrator for Communications Bettina Inclán will host the event, featuring NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, NASA Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen, Launch Director Omar Baez from LSP, and ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno. A Mars 2020 Mission Engineering/Science Briefing will follow, from 3 to 4:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, July 28: 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.
  • Wednesday, July 29: Briefing with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard, Kennedy Director Bob Cabana and astronaut Zena Cardman, from noon to 1 p.m.

Perseverance will reach Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, touching down on the surface of Jezero Crater. About the size of a car with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover, Perseverance will carry seven different scientific instruments. The rover’s astrobiology mission, developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, will search for signs of past microbial life. It will 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.

Attached to the belly of the rover and weighing less than four pounds is NASA’s Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity. The twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter will become the first aircraft to fly on another world.

For more information on Perseverance and its mission, visit the mission website. Follow along at blogs.nasa.gov/Mars2020 for live countdown and launch coverage.

NASA’s Perseverance Rover Comes Together for Mars Mission

NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover  is targeted to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 20, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Christian Mangano

Continuing on its path to preparation for next month’s launch, NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover spacecraft is, well, put together.

Inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Backshell-Powered Descent Vehicle and Entry Vehicle assemblies are now attached to Perseverance. The cone-shaped backshell contains the parachute, and along with the mission’s heat shield, will provide protection for the rover and descent stage during entry into the Martian atmosphere.

Recently, the rover’s ULA Atlas V booster was lifted up in the Vertical Integration Facility at Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida.

Inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Mars Perseverance rover is rotated to prepare for the Backshell-Powered Descent Vehicle and Entry Vehicle assemblies to be attached. Photo credit: NASA/Christian Mangano

Activities have continued to ramp up with the attachment of the four solid rocket boosters (SRBs) one-by-one to the sides of the Atlas V 541 rocket, followed by the Centaur upper stage. The Centaur can control its orientation precisely, while providing up to 22,300 pounds of thrust. The spacecraft will be mated to the Atlas V rocket on June 22.

The assembly, test and launch operations team from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and United Launch Alliance (ULA) engineers have hit multiple key milestones in the past two months, keeping Perseverance on target for its launch to the Red Planet in mid-July. These include attaching the aeroshell backshell and attaching the rover to its rocket-powered descent stage, rotating and spinning the descent stage on two separate measuring fixtures to pinpoint its center of gravity, and attaching NASA’s Mars Helicopter, recently named Ingenuity, to the belly of the rover.

Perseverance will reach Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, touching down on the surface of Jezero Crater. Developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, the rover’s astrobiology mission will search for signs of past microbial life.

The rover, carrying seven different scientific instruments, will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Launch is scheduled for Monday, July 20, at 9:15 a.m. ET, with a two-hour window. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch. For more information on Perseverance and its mission, visit the mission website.

NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover Gets a Boost

Mars Perseverance rover booster offload
The United Launch Alliance booster for NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover is offloaded from the Antonov 124 cargo aircraft at the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on May 19, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

With the addition of a powerful piece of hardware, NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover continues to progress toward its much-anticipated launch in less than two months.

The spacecraft’s booster arrived at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Skid Strip on Monday, May 18. It was then offloaded and taken to United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center.

Mars Perseverance rover booster arrival
The Antonov 124 cargo aircraft, carrying the United Launch Alliance booster for NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover, taxis off the runway at the Skid Strip at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on May 18, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Perseverance remains on track for its targeted mid-July launch. The rover will liftoff aboard a ULA Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is managing the launch.

Perseverance will reach the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021. After the rover enters the thin Martian atmosphere, the descent stage — utilizing a tether of nylon cords — will lower Perseverance to the surface of Jezero Crater.

Developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, the rover’s astrobiology mission will search for signs of past microbial life. Ingenuity, the twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter attached to Perseverance, will become the first aircraft to fly on another world.

For more information, visit the mission website.

Perseverance Presses On, Remains Targeted for Summer Launch

Mars Perseverance rover in the PHSF at Kennedy Space Center
Multiple milestones have been reached recently with the Mars Perseverance rover at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The aeroshell backshell was attached on April 29 and the rover was attached to its rocket-powered descent stage on April 23 inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. Photo credit: NASA/JPL

Testing on NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover at Kennedy Space Center closed out April on an extremely high note.

The latest activities at the Florida spaceport included attaching the aeroshell backshell on April 29 and attaching the rover to its rocket-powered descent stage on April 23 inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. The rover and descent stage were the first spacecraft components to come together for launch — and they will be the last to separate when the spacecraft reaches Mars on Feb. 18, 2021.

The backshell carries the parachute and several components that will be used during later stages of entry, descent and landing. The aeroshell will encapsulate and protect Perseverance and its descent stage during their deep space journey to Mars and during descent through the Martian atmosphere, which generates intense heat.

April saw other key rover milestones reached at Kennedy. On April 14, the

Mars Perseverance rover in the PHSF
Perseverance remains on track for its targeted launch period, which opens in six weeks. Liftoff, aboard a ULA Atlas V 541 rocket, will be from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Photo credit: NASA/JPL

descent stage — fully loaded with 884 pounds of fuel (a hydrazine monopropellant) — was rotated and spun on two separate measuring fixtures to pinpoint its center of gravity.  This will help ensure the descent stage remains stable while guiding Perseverance to a safe landing.

On April 6, NASA’s Mars Helicopter, recently named Ingenuity, was attached to the belly of the rover. Weighing less than four pounds, the twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter will be released to perform the first in a series of flight tests that will take place during 30 Martian days (a day on Mars is about 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth). Ingenuity will become the first aircraft to fly on another world.

Thanks to the enduring efforts of NASA and United Launch Alliance (ULA) engineers, Perseverance remains on track for its targeted launch period, which opens in just six weeks. The rover will liftoff aboard a ULA Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch.

After the rover enters the thin Martian atmosphere, the descent stage will complete the slowing of Perseverance to less than two miles per hour. At about 65 feet over the Martian surface, the descent stage — utilizing a tether of nylon cords — will lower Perseverance to the surface of Jezero Crater. The rover will then sever the cords and the descent stage will fly away.

About the size of a car with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover, Perseverance will carry seven different scientific instruments. Developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, the rover’s astrobiology mission will search for signs of past microbial life. It will 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.

Visit the mission website for more information.