Kennedy Engineers Play Major Role in Mars 2020 Mission Success

Mars 2020 Perseverance rover lift off
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 30, 2020, at 7:50 a.m. EDT, carrying NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Tim Powers

When NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover roared off the pad aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 Thursday, July 30, at 7:50 a.m., there were a lot of energized engineers on the ground at Kennedy Space Center.

Following the successful launch, the Florida spaceport’s Director of Engineering, Shawn Quinn, offered praise to the team’s support of Kennedy’s Launch Services Program (LSP).

“Our LSP engineering team diligently worked through multiple milestones to achieve launch readiness,” Quinn said. “Every mission presents its own unique challenges, including Mars 2020. The engineering team’s response to these challenges was outstanding.”

The team supported critical reviews and tests, such as: the LSP pre-Flight Readiness Review (FRR) Risk Control Board, FRR Launch Management Coordination meeting, systems certification review, and mission dress rehearsal. Engineering technical experts worked through 247 engineering review summaries in support of the historic mission.

Quinn also recognized the Engineering’s Construction of Facilities (COF) team for its contributions to facility and infrastructure support.

“The real-time support to the Spaceport Integration and Services directorate in addressing operations and maintenance-related issues and concerns during processing was a critical piece to the success of the mission,” Quinn said.

The team performed facility repairs and upgrades — including replacing obsolete substations, switch gears, chillers, air ventilation and conditioning systems, facility electrical, lighting, and fire protection systems at the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility Mission Operations Support Building, the Multi-Operation Support Building, the Radiothermalisotopic Generator Facility, and Hangar AE — all in support of this historic mission.

Perseverance is now on its way to seek signs of ancient life and collect rock and soil samples for possible return to Earth. Along with the rover is the Ingenuity helicopter, a technology demonstration that will be the first powered flight on Mars.The rover will arrive on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021.

The mission addresses high-priority science goals for Mars exploration, including key astrobiology questions concerning the potential for life on Mars. It not only seeks signs of habitable conditions on Mars in the ancient past, but also will search for signs of past microbial life.

SpaceX Crew Dragon on the Path Home

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, undocks from the International Space Station on Aug. 1, 2020. Photo credit: NASA

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission passed a significant milestone this evening as the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station at 7:35 p.m. EDT after more than two months of docked operations in orbit. Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, traveling aboard the spacecraft they named “Endeavour,” will spend one more night in space before beginning their journey back to Earth on Sunday in the first return of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft carrying astronauts from the space station.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are seated inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on Aug. 1, 2020.
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are seated inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft prior to undocking from the International Space Station on Aug. 1, 2020. Photo credit: NASA

With the spacecraft on its path home, the astronauts will settle in for an eight-hour sleep period. While they’re asleep, a six-minute departure phasing burn at 1:48 a.m. EDT Sunday, Aug. 2 will set the Dragon Endeavour on the proper orbital path to a planned splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida.

The deorbit burn, which slows the spacecraft’s forward speed enough to begin its descent, is scheduled for 1:51 p.m. EDT on Sunday, with splashdown at 2:48 p.m. EDT. Teams continue to closely monitor Hurricane Isaias and evaluate impacts to the landing sites in the Gulf of Mexico along the Florida Panhandle. Teams have several weather decision milestones ahead of and after undocking to adjust the splashdown location and time based on the forecasted conditions for recovery.

Follow along with the return and recovery activities here on the blog and on NASA Television.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Doug Hurley, are pictured having just entered the International Space Station on May 31, 2020, shortly after arriving aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Doug Hurley, are pictured having just entered the International Space Station on May 31, 2020, shortly after arriving aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. Photo credit: NASA

Behnken and Hurley arrived at the orbiting laboratory on May 31, following a successful launch on May 30 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During their 63 days aboard the station, Behnken and Hurley contributed more than 100 hours of time to supporting the orbiting laboratory’s investigations, participated in public engagement events, and supported four spacewalks with Behnken and Cassidy to install new batteries in the station’s power grid and upgrade other station hardware.

These activities are a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which has been working with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil the International Space Station for the first time since 2011. This is SpaceX’s final test flight and is providing data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking, splashdown and recovery operations.

The test flight also is helping NASA certify SpaceX’s crew transportation system for regular flights carrying astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX is readying the hardware for the first rotational mission, which would occur following NASA certification.

Successful Launch Sends Perseverance on Seven-Month Journey to Mars

Mars 2020 Perseverance launch
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket climbs upward after lifting off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 30, 2020, at 7:50 a.m. EDT, carrying NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Not obstacles, not complexity — not even a worldwide pandemic — could keep NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover from blasting off on its historic mission to the Red Planet.

On Thursday, July 30, at 7:50 a.m. EDT, Perseverance lifted off aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 541 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, bound for a Feb. 18, 2021, arrival to Mars, where it will touch down on the surface of Jezero Crater.

“It was an amazing launch; very successful,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during Thursday’s post-launch news conference at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “It went right on time, it is on a trajectory now that has been done with pinpoint accuracy, and it is, in fact, on its way to Mars.”

Perseverance, which will reach Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, is carrying seven different scientific instruments. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray

Due to the alignment of Earth and Mars, the mission’s launch period would have expired on Aug. 15. That placed increased importance on hitting the window; otherwise, the rover would have needed to be stored for two years, until the next favorable alignment.

“(The ULA and Launch Services team) gave us a perfect launch this morning — right down the middle; couldn’t have aimed us any better,” said Matt Wallace, deputy project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “They really pushed hard to keep us on this limited planetary launch window in 2020.”

With its unique and distinct challenges, COVID-19 certainly threatened that timeline. Wallace admitted there have been “very strenuous moments” in the past few months dealing with the pandemic.

“It really took the entire agency to step up and help us; and they didn’t hesitate,” he said. “The team out there — thousands of people — have really made this a special mission. As people have eluded to, ‘Perseverance’ has become a pretty good name for this mission.”

Launch Director Omar Baez of NASA’s Launch Services Program beamed with pride following his team’s flawless effort.

Derrol Nail, left, NASA Communications, and Moogega Cooper, Planetary Protection engineer at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, provide live coverage during Thursday’s launch of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. Photo credit: NASA/Frankie Martin

“Fantastic, honored, proud, ecstatic — those are the kind of words I can think of right now,” Baez said. “We hit right at the beginning of the window, and the vehicle performed perfectly. It’s just a proud moment, and I’m glad our program provided what was needed to get this on the way.”

ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno said before the launch that the rocket would leap off of the pad. On a calm, clear, and beautiful Florida day, that’s exactly what happened.

“We ignited, the Atlas performed nominally throughout the mission, and we ended with just an extraordinarily accurate orbital insertion,” Bruno said.

About the size of a car with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover, Perseverance carries 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.

The mission marks the first time in history that samples will be collected to bring back to Earth from another planet. Another first: Ingenuity, a twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter attached to the belly of the rover, will become the first aircraft to fly on another world.

Perseverance will spend at least one Martian year, or approximately two Earth years, exploring the landing site region on the Red Planet. Though the mission has a long way to go, Thursday’s launch sent it off to a terrific start.

“I loved it,” said NASA Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen. “It’s like punching a hole in the sky.”

Today’s the Day: Perseverance Being Prepped for Liftoff!

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover aboard sits on the pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 on July 30, 2020. Photo credit: NASA

Good morning, and welcome to today’s live blog coverage of NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover launch! It is a beautiful morning here at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

We are just over an hour away from today’s scheduled 7:50 a.m. EDT liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41. There is a two-hour launch window. Perseverance will blast off aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 541 rocket to embark on its seven-month journey to the Red Planet. NASA’s Launch Services Program, (LSP) based at Kennedy, is managing the launch.

Weather reports have been positive — the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron predicted an 80% chance of favorable weather conditions for the launch. An updated weather report is expected shortly.

This mission is the culmination of years of dedicated work by thousands of people, including teams from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where the spacecraft was designed and built; Kennedy, where it was assembled; ULA, Lockheed Martin, and scientists from around the world. In the U.S., flight hardware was built in 44 states, involving more than 550 cities, towns and communities.

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.

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

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.