Mars 2020 is the next big mission for NASA after sending the first astronauts to the space station on a SpaceX rocket. In July, NASA’s newest Mars rover named ‘Perseverance’ will launch for Mars from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
From studying signs of past life on Mars to preparing for human life, the new Mars rover will have four long-term science goals once it reaches Martian soil:
- Determine whether life ever arose on Mars
- Characterize the climate of Mars
- Characterize the geology of Mars
- Prepare for human exploration
Was there ever life on Mars?
Perseverance is the first Mars rover designed for studying rock samples for preserved signs of biosignatures.
Other rovers were used to determine that Mars once had conditions capable of supporting life. The Mars 2020 rover will go a step further and hunt for evidence of past microbial life.
Preparing the way for astronauts
Mars 2020 will also be a mission that builds the foundation for preparing astronauts for the Martian environment.
The Perseverance rover is demonstrating key technologies for using natural resources in the Martian environment for life support and fuel. It is also monitoring environmental conditions so mission planners understand better how to protect future human explorers.
This science goal relates to national space policy for sending humans to Mars in the 2030s. Similar to the history of the exploration of Earth’s moon, robotic missions to Mars provide a crucial understanding of the environment and test innovative technologies for future human exploration.
This includes demonstrating “In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) technologies to enable propellant and consumable oxygen production from the Martian atmosphere for future exploration missions,” according to NASA.
Mars launch window
The opportunity to launch from Earth to Mars only opens for a few weeks once about every two years. That’s because Mars takes 1.9 Earth years to orbit the Sun compared to a single Earth year for our planet.
Mars mission launch windows are determined by when the two planets are nearest. This reduces the total distance that must be traveled to reach the destination. Perseverance will still take over six months to reach Martian soil using the fastest route between Earth and Mars.
When does Perseverance leave Earth?
NASA has a Mars 2020 launch window between July and August. The new Mars rover will reach its destination in February.
- NASA is currently targeting
July 17 at 9 a.m. EDT(1) July 20 for launch
- The launch window will remain open through August 5
- Perseverance will land on Mars on February 18, 2021
- The rover will conduct its mission for at least one Mars year, the length of 687 days on Earth
Mars rover Perseverance will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard an Atlas V 541 rocket from United Launch Alliance. The launch is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center.
Space Explored will be on location to cover the Mars 2020 mission launch in July.