Nasa Mars rover: Perseverance launch pushed back again

James Marshall
July 3, 2020

Once Perseverance does reach Mars, the rover will scope out the surface for evidence of life.

NASA has also expanded the launch window by five days to August 15.

The delay means China could beat NASA by being the first to launch to the Red Planet with the Tianwen-1 Mars rover.

It will be China's first interplanetary mission, and takes place shortly before the next US Mars rover - timed to launch no earlier than July 30. NASA confirmed in the latest launch delay announcement that the mission can now launch as late as August 15. The launch window has been extended from August 10 to August 15.

In its statement, Nasa said: "A liquid oxygen sensor line presented off-nominal data during the Wet Dress Rehearsal, and additional time is needed for the team to inspect and evaluate". "We think we have some robustness there, some good robustness there, in the launch window", Matt Wallace, deputy project manager for Mars 2020, said at the June 17 briefing.

Perseverance will still attempt a touchdown next February in an ancient river delta at Mars, regardless of when it launches. After the test, the rocket's liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen tanks are drained and the vehicle returned to its integration building.

The Mars rover was originally pencilled in to launch on July 17. Everything seemed to be in order, that is until about a month ago when delays to the launch pushed it back by a couple days, and then another few days.

Although NASA's officials are confident the mission will blast off this summer, further delays could be devastating.

The dates have been chosen because the Earth and Mars are only aligned at an optimal position for spaceflight for a short period once every 26 months.

The United Arab Emirates and China, meanwhile, still are pressing ahead with launches this month or next of Mars spacecraft. "It could cost half a billion dollars".

This is the third delay for the rover, which will scour the red planet for signs of life.

The launch team conducted the wet dress rehearsal, a comprehensive countdown practice session with Mars 2020's United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 22.

Now, NASA is desperately hoping to avoid the same fate that befell the European Space Agency's Mars rover, Rosalind Franklin.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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