NASA’s next Mars rover will not go off the ground on July 17, after all.
The launch of the car size Endurance rover from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station has been delayed until July 20 because “additional time was needed for the team to repair a ground system problem,” NASA officials said in an update today (June 11).
The issue involved a faulty crane, says Tory Bruno, CEO of the United Launch Alliance, which supplies Atlas V rockets that will send Perseverance en route to Mars. “Crane, now fixed. Rocket is good,” Bruno said via Twitter today, responds to a follower who asked about the cause of the delay.
related: NASA’s March 2020 robber Perseverance in photos
There is still quite a bit of room in Perseverance’s schedule; The rover’s launch window extends to August 11. But the end date is a tough deadline, which marks the end of a lift opportunity that comes only once every 26 months. (Mars and Earth are not very targeted for interplanetary missions very often.)
Whenever Perseverance lifts during the upcoming window, the six-wheeled robot will land inside Mars 28 kilometers wide (45 kilometers) Jezero crater on February 18, 2021. Rover is hunting for signs of ancient life in Jezero, which hosted a lake and river delta billions of years ago.
Endurance, the centerpiece of NASA’s March 2020 mission, will also characterize the area’s geology and perform a number of other tasks. For example, one of the rover’s instruments will generate oxygen from Mars’ carbon dioxide-dominated atmosphere. This latter technology, once scaled up, can help human exploration of the Red Planet, NASA officials have said.
Another technology demonstration also tags on the March 2020 mission: a small helicopter scout, which will deploy from the rover’s stomach and make some short flights in the thin Martian air. About the little hacker, is called Ingenuity, performing well, aerial exploration could play a major role in future Mars missions, NASA officials have said.
Endurance will also collect and cache dozens of Mars samples for future return to Earth. NASA and the European Space Agency work together sample retrieval plan, which could bring the Red Planet material here as early as 2031. Scientists in laboratories around the world will then pore over the samples and hunt for signs of ancient The life of Mars and other clues about the history and evolution of the fourth mountain from the sun.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.