An artist’s impression of the Mars 2020 rover, using a drill on the end of its robot arm to collect sub-surface rock and soil samples. A cache of samples left on the surface by the rover will be picked up and returned to Earth in the 2031 timeframe aboard a European Space Agency craft. Image: NASA-JPL/Caltech
Two U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster cargo jets completed a 3,700-kilometre (2,300-mile) coast-to-coast flight 12 February, delivering NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, its interplanetary cruise stage and “sky crane” descent stage to Cape Canaveral in Florida for final preparations before launch to the red planet on 17 July.
“Our rover has left the only home it has ever known,” said John McNamee, Mars 2020 project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “The 2020 family here at JPL is a little sad to see it go, but we’re even more proud knowing that the next time our rover takes to the skies, it will be headed to Mars.”
Engineers planned to re-assemble the rover and its components in the same “clean room” facility at the Kennedy Space Center where the Curiosity rover was processed for flight. The Mars 2020 rover should be enclosed ...