Mars 2020 Perseverance Exits Safe Mode, Successfully Heading to Mars

Flight controllers for NASA’s Mars 2020 mission have returned the spacecraft to nominal flight operations.

Launched on July 30 at 7:50 a.m. EDT (4:50 a.m. PDT), Mars 2020 entered a state called safe mode soon after it was placed on an interplanetary trajectory because a sensor indicated that part of the spacecraft was slightly colder than expected. When a spacecraft enters safe mode, all but essential systems are turned off until it receives new commands from mission control.

“With safe mode exit, the team is getting down to the business of interplanetary cruise,” said Mars 2020 deputy project manager Matt Wallace of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Next stop, Jezero Crater.”

Managed by JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis program.


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.