NASA says Perseverance rover still on track for Mars despite pandemic

Brittany A. Roston - May 9, 2020, 6:15am CDT
NASA says Perseverance rover still on track for Mars despite pandemic

In an update on its Mars Perseverance rover, NASA said that it’s still on track to launch the machine this summer despite the pandemic. Social distancing efforts have forced many people to work from home, but that hasn’t stopped some teams from continuing their efforts and that includes many of the experts working on Perseverance. If everything goes as planned, the rover will reach Mars in early 2021.

Perseverance is NASA’s latest Mars rover, one that will be tasked with searching for evidence of a potentially habitable landscape that existed in the planet’s distant past. NASA will also use this rover and its array of instruments to look for evidence of former microbial life on the Red Planet.

The unexpected global pandemic has delayed a number of space projects and efforts, but Perseverance isn’t one of them. In an announcement this week, NASA said that its team wrapped up a considerable amount of work in April and that it is still on track to launch the rover this summer. If everything goes as anticipated, Perseverance will launch in July.

NASA detailed the efforts its team put in last month; they attached the aeroshell backshell on the rover in the end of April, for example, after having first attached the rover to the descent stage. These two won’t separate again until Perseverance reaches Mars in the middle of February 2021.

As well, the Perseverance team attached the Mars Helicopter vehicle to the rover’s belly; it will eventually be deployed on Mars as something like an experiment in and of itself, enabling researchers to conduct flights on the Red Planet — if the helicopter works as expected, that is. The rover will be launched using a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket.

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