Mars rover on track to launch from Space Coast in July

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — The Mars Perseverance Rover mission is still on track to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station next month.

NASA is targeting July 20 for the launch, and teams have worked through the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure it happens.

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NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said missing that window be costly.

“When you talk about Earth and Mars being on the same side of the sun, that only happens about every 26 months,” he said. “So, it’s very expensive if we have to take Perseverance and put it back in storage for two years. It could cost half a billion dollars.”

Development of the Perseverance rover through launch will cost $2.4 billion, plus another $300 million that will be spent to operate it.

The rover will land in the Jezero Crater to collect and store rock and soil samples in sealed tubes, and signs of past microbial life, as well as collect data on the planet’s climate and geology, paving the way for human exploration.

“We’re going to know where to go to get the absolute best science data we can get,” Bridenstie said.

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The rover will be equipped with microphones and its own tiny helicopter named Ingenuity.

“This is the first time we’ll see a spacecraft land on another planet,” said Matt Wallace, Perseverance deputy project manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

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The journey to Mars will take eight to 10 months. NASA won’t launch the rover’s return mission, collecting the samples from the Red Planet, until 2026.

“What a great time to be at NASA and watch all the things that NASA is doing,” Bridenstine said.

Watch the launch LIVE on Ch. 9 and online

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.