So far, so good, in terms of the preparation and plans of NASA’s Mars 2020 to launch on Thursday, July 30, at 7:50 a.m. ET on ULA‘s Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral’s Air Force Station Complex-41. Along for the journey is the Perseverance Rover and the Ingenuity helicopter … destination Mars!
The spacecraft will explore the Jezero Crater to study the planet’s habitability, seek signs of past microbial life, collect and store samples of selected rock and soil and prepare for future human missions.
Teams have until 9:50 a.m. to launch or will be forced to delay another day.
The primary weather concern for Thursday’s launch are isolated showers offshore and mid-level clouds along the coast, according to the 45th Space Wing. In the event of a delay, weather improves slightly to 90 percent “go” for a Friday launch.
The rover also carries the Ingenuity helicopter, a technology demonstration to prove that powered flight can be achieved at Mars. The mission will also be the first time a helicopter flies on Mars.
“It’s not easy to build a rotor craft to fly on Mars. The atmosphere is really thin. I mean compared to Earth, it’s about 1 percent. So a vehicle to fly on Mars has to be really light and it has to spin really fast,” said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity helicopter project manager at NASA’s JPL during a media teleconference.
The Perseverance launch will mark the 85th Atlas V mission since the inaugural launch in 2002 and the 7th in the 541 configuration.
The mission is expected to last approximately 10 years from the time Perseverance lifts off to when the samples are returned to Earth.
To keep up to speed with the launch countdown, ULA will be posting updates in the overnight hours. Updates from the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center will begin here at 12:15 EDT.