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Two Mars missions launched, one more – Perseverance – to go

24 Jul 2020, 14:40 UTC
Two Mars missions launched, one more – Perseverance – to go
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NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover, packed in its aeroshell (center) before attachment to the heat shield (at bottom) that will protect the craft during atmospheric entry next February. The rover’s interplanetary cruise stage is visible at top. Image: NASA
With the UAE’s Hope orbiter on its way to Mars, followed by the successful launch of China’s Tianwen-1 orbiter-rover combination on 23 July, all eyes are now on NASA as it readies the $2.4 billion Perseverance rover for launch from Cape Canaveral atop an Atlas 5 rocket on 30 July.
The rover and its interplanetary cruise stage, packed inside a nose cone fairing, were mounted atop the Atlas 5’s Centaur upper stage on 7 July. Engineers later installed the radioisotope thermoelectric generator that will power Perseverance on the surface of the red planet.
Launch originally was planned for 17 July, but the flight was delayed by ground-processing issues. The rocket and spacecraft now appear solidly on track for launch 30 July pending the outcome of a final Launch Readiness Review three days before takeoff.
Fully packed for launch, the Perseverance rover and its cruise stage are encapsulated in an Atlas 5 nose fairing. Image: NASA
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