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‘Harbor Seal Rock’ on Mars and other new sights intrigue Perseverance rover scientists


This wind-carved “Harbor Seal Rock,” seen in the first 360-degree panorama taken by the Mastcam-Z instrument on NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover, shows just how much detail is captured by the camera system. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/ASU)

NASA’s Perseverance rover has landed in a rich scientific hunting ground, if its first good look around is any guide.

The car-sized Perseverance landed on the floor of Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, kicking off an ambitious surface mission that will hunt for signs of ancient Mars life and collect samples for future return to Earth, among other tasks.

Perseverance is not yet ready to dive into that science work; the mission team is still conducting health and status checks on its various instruments and subsystems. But the six-wheeled robot recently used its Mastcam-Z camera suite to capture a high-definition, 360-degree panorama of its surroundings, and that first taste has the mission team intrigued.

Live updates: NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover mission

For example, the zoomable panorama revealed a dark stone that the team has dubbed “Harbor Seal Rock,” Mastcam-Z principal investigator Jim Bell, of Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, said during a webcast discussion of the photo on Thursday (Feb. 25).

The Martian wind probably carved Harbor Seal Rock into its curious shape over the eons, Bell said. He also pointed out patches that showed evidence of much faster-acting erosion — spots where the thrusters on Perseverance’s “sky crane” descent stage blew away Mars’ blanket of red dust on Feb. 18, exposing the surfaces of small rocks. 

One such patch harbors a group of light-colored, heavily pitted stones that have caught mission scientists’ eyes.

“Are these volcanic rocks? Are these carbonate rocks? Are these something else? Do they have coatings on them?” Bell said. “We don’t know — we don’t have any chemical data or mineral data on them yet — but, boy, they’re certainly interesting, and part of the story about what’s going on here is going to be told when we get more detailed information on these rocks and some of the other materials in this area.”

This is one of the key jobs of Mastcam-Z and Perseverance’s other cameras, Bell said — to spot interesting features that Perseverance can study in more detail with its spectrometers and other science instruments.

The 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater harbored a deep lake and a river delta billions of years ago. Deltas are good at preserving signs of life here on Earth, so the Perseverance team is eager for the rover to study and sample the remnants of that feature within Jezero. And the delta is visible in the Mastcam-Z panorama; the cliffs that mark its edge are about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) from Perseverance’s landing site, Bell said.

The ridgeline that’s visible beyond the delta cliffs in the Mastcam-Z panorama is Jezero Crater’s rim, he added.

The recently unveiled photo is just the beginning, of course. For starters, it’s the lowest-resolution panorama the Mastcam-Z team will construct. Bell said that similar shots that are three times sharper will be assembled after Perseverance switches over to its surface-optimized software, a four-day process that’s already underway.

And we haven’t gotten the slightest taste of Perseverance’s science discoveries yet. That work will take a while to get going, because the mission team’s first big task after getting the rover up and running is to conduct test flights of the 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms) Mars Helicopter Ingenuity, which rode to the Red Planet on Perseverance’s belly.

Ingenuity’s pioneering sorties — the first rotorcraft flights on a world beyond Earth — will likely take place this spring, and science and sampling are expected to begin in earnest in the summer, mission team members have said.

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. 

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China offers 1st glimpse inside Chang’e 5 moon rock sample

China has revealed the first images of lunar samples from its Chang’e 5 mission following a meeting between China’s president and mission representatives.

The Chang’e 5 reentry capsule delivered to Earth 3.81 lbs (1.731 kilograms) of lunar samples collected from Oceanus Procellarum on Dec. 16. Now, China has released images of what scientists expect will be the youngest lunar samples so far. Samples from the mission will also go on display in March in a public exhibit.

The new images came as Chinese president Xi Jinping met and congratulated Chang’e 5 space scientists and engineers at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday (Feb. 22).

Related: The latest news about China’s space program

The photographs reveal that the samples contain dark grains and fine material, as well as apparent basaltic glasses created by lunar volcanism, according to a description released with the images.

China has stated its openness to sharing portions of the samples with scientists across the world. In January, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) published procedures for requesting access to the samples.

At the National Museum of China in Beijing, the public will also get a chance to view some of the invaluable material, inside a container made from artificial crystal and shaped like a Chinese bronze ritual wine vessel, according to press reports

See more

The container was designed with a number of cosmic references in mind. Its height is 15.1 inches tall (38.44 centimeters) and 9 inches wide (22.89 cm). The two metric numbers correspond with the average Earth-moon distance, of 238,855 miles (384,400 kilometers) and the 22.89 days Chang’e 5’s voyage lasted.

The samples are contained within a spherical void in the center of the crystal, representing the moon, while a Chinese map lies below.

During the congratulatory meeting, Xi stated that the success of Chang’e 5 marked the conclusion of China’s initial three-step lunar exploration program, which consisted of orbiting, landing on the moon, and returning with samples. 

The Chinese leader then emphasized the importance of embarking on the fourth phase of China’s lunar exploration program. China is planning a new sample-return mission, named Chang’e 6, to the lunar south pole around 2024. Chang’e 7 and 8 will each involve landers, rovers, relay satellites and orbiters and will attempt a range of science and technology test objectives.

Russia recently stated it intends to sign a memorandum of understanding with China to cooperate on establishing an international lunar research station.

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I wrote a song with the first Mars sounds recorded by NASA’s Perseverance rover

After NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover landed on the Red Planet last week, Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate, asked the question: “Who’s going to compose the first piece of music with Mars sound?”

So I did. 

NASA has released a “firehose of data” from Perseverance’s landing, including videos, images and audio from the surface of Mars, Justin Maki,an imaging scientist and instrument operations team chief for NASA’s Perseverance rover, said during a news briefing on Monday (Feb. 22). 

The first video released by NASA’s Perseverance team offered spectacular views of the rover’s atmospheric entry, descent and landing operations, a slew of fantastic images of the rover’s landing site in Jezero Crater (including Perseverance’s first panorama) and, my personal favorite, the first audio captured from the mission by the rover’s microphone system. 

But this isn’t just a first for Perseverance. This is the first audio ever recorded on the surface of another planet. 

Epic video: Watch the Perseverance rover land on Mars
Live updates:
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover mission 

If you click play (and turn up the sound), you’ll hear the weighty rumbling of the Martian wind — and some high-pitched whirring sounds from the rover itself. The sound is deeply alien while reminiscent of the soothing sounds of planet Earth. I could listen to this audio, which has an intrinsic peaceful and calming quality, all day. But, instead, I decided to take the beautiful, historic audio and turn it into a song. 

When I am not working to communicate space and science here at Space.com, I compose and perform indie music under the name Foxanne. This isn’t my first time writing about a rover, as I recently released the song “Opportunity” about the now-defunct NASA rover that powered off after a global dust storm. 

With these new Martian samples, I came up with “Hello, Mars,” a song that, at least at the time of writing this article, is the first song released that uses the first audio ever captured on the surface of Mars. 

You can listen to the song on SoundCloud here

“I’m finally here but I’m just getting started,” the song’s lyrics go. “I’ve been training for years, though they said it was hard and ‘why would I go all this way?’ Oh, why wouldn’t I go all this way?”

The song goes on to say “I feel like I’m hearing for the first time, seeing for the first time,” referencing Perseverance’s microphones and suite of cameras allowing us to see and hear the Red Planet like never before. It then leads into the line, “here to discover and here to explore,” a more obvious reference to the mission’s ambitious science objectives, before crescendoing into a fun, upbeat ending. NASA sent Perseverance to Mars with a number of science objectives including searching for evidence of ancient life and studying the planet’s climate. 

“We have an early entry in the @Dr_ThomasZ Mars Composition Challenge!” Zurbuchen tweeted about the song. 

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While there is no official Mars composition challenge (yet), if you’re also a musician or artist and you want to play around with these spectacular audio clips from Perseverance, NASA has made the samples publicly available, along with the rest of the “firehose of data” that they released Monday. As the rover continues to capture audio, video and still imagery, we can expect to get an even greater look at the Red Planet. 

Check out the Mars audio samples here

Now, If you’re an avid space fan you might be thinking to yourself, “didn’t Insight, NASA’s digging probe “hear” sounds on Mars? The “dinks and donks,” and other Martian sounds shared by NASA from Insight actually come from seismic data picked up by the craft sensing vibrations at the planet, rather than audio actually recorded with a microphone as we see with Perseverance. But you can still check out that audio here, if you want! 

Email Chelsea Gohd at cgohd@space.com or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Were the Mars moons Phobos and Deimos born from another shattered moon?

The moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, might have both arose from the remains of a larger moon that once orbited the Red Planet, a new study finds.

The origins of Phobos and Deimos remain uncertain. While their misshapen forms and their cratered surfaces suggested they were asteroids captured by the gravitational pull of Mars, previous research questioned this scenario because of the moons’ near-circular orbits around the Red Planet’s equator. If these moons really were captured asteroids, computer simulations found that they’dlikely have more irregular orbits.

As such, researchers have also proposed another idea:  Phobos and Deimos could have formed from a disk of rock and dust that may have once orbited a newborn Mars. However, this scenario faces a number of challenges of its own.

Related: 7 biggest mysteries of Mars

For example, in order to form two moons of such sizes and distances from Mars, prior studies suggested a large, massive disk was necessary. Given such a disk, the formation “of a single larger moon is much more likely, similar to the Earth’s moon,” study lead author Amirhossein Bagheri, a planetary science researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, told Space.com.

In addition, previous studies have suggested that such a moon-forming disk likely originated from a cosmic impact that also created the gigantic Borealis basin in the northern lowlands of Mars, which covers two-fifths of the Red Planet’s surface. However, Bagheri noted, the impact that formed that basin is thought to have happened in the very early stages of solar system formation. If Phobos was that old, based on what researchers know about its orbit, “it should have already crashed on Mars, and we would’ve not been able to see it in the present day,” he noted.

Now Bagheri and his colleagues suggest a new possibility — that Phobos and Deimos both originated from the remnants of a shattered moon.

The scientists analyzed the latest data about Mars, Phobos and Deimos, including Martian seismic data from NASA’s InSight lander currently operating on the Red Planet, to see how these bodies might have evolved over time. They found the orbits of the moons might have intersected at recently as 1 billion to 2.7 billion years ago, suggesting their progenitor was a larger moon that disintegrated, likely because of a giant impact.

“I find the idea that Mars used to have a larger moon, which was hit by one of the many objects that has been rushing towards it, quite exciting and surprising,” Bagheri said. 

The remaining debris from this impact could have rained down on the Red Planet. “Mars’s surface is peppered with impact craters and many of them are estimated to have ages within the time period we compute for the disruption event of the earlier moon,” Bagheri said. 

The scientists noted that whereas Deimos is very slowly receding from Mars, Phobos is continuing to spiral towards the Red Planet. They suggested it would likely either impact with Mars or get torn apart by its gravitational pull in 39 million years.

Future research can learn more about this theoretical moon via closer looks at Phobos and Deimos, Bagheri said. He noted that new insights may come from the upcoming Martian Moons Exploration mission from Japan’s space agency, which aims to collect samples from Phobos.

The scientists detailed their findings online Feb. 22 in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Originally published on Space.com.

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On This Day in Space! Feb. 21, 1931: Germany’s 1st liquid-fuel rocket (barely) launches

On Feb. 21, 1931, Germany launched its first liquid-fueled rocket … sort of. 

The rocket only made it about 10 feet off the ground. To be fair, the rocket itself was only two feet tall, so it did achieve an altitude of about five times its height. The rocket was named Hückel-Winkler 1 after the engineers who designed and built it. 

Hückel-Winkler 1 was powered by a combination of liquid oxygen and liquid methane. It lifted off from a drilling field near Dessau, Germany on two separate flights. After the first launch was a failure, the rocket did reach its planned altitude of 500 feet during its second flight three weeks later. 

A look at the Hückel-Winkler 1, the first German-built liquid fueled rocket, which launched on Feb. 21, 1931. (Image credit: Peter Alway)

Catch up on our entire “On This Day In Space” series on YouTube with this playlist.

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On This Day in Space Archive!

Still not enough space? Don’t forget to check out our Space Image of the Day, and on the weekends our Best Space Photos and Top Space News Stories of the week

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

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Northrop Grumman Antares rocket launches Cygnus cargo ship to space station for NASA

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. — A Northrop Grumman-built Cygnus cargo ship lifted off from Virginia on Saturday (Feb. 20), carrying vital supplies for astronauts on the International Space Station. 

Perched atop a two-stage Antares rocket, the uncrewed Cygnus NG-15 spacecraft blasted off from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility here at 12:36 p.m. EDT (1736 GMT).

The craft is hauling more than 8,200 lbs. (3,719 kilograms) of cargo that include scientific equipment, fresh food and supplies for the seven astronauts on board the space station. It’s also packed with new hardware and spacewalk equipment. 

The 139-foot-tall (42.5-meter) Antares rocket lifted off right on time, at the beginning of a planned 5-minute window. It’s Cygnus NG-15 cargo ship is named after Katherine Johnson, the trailblazing NASA mathematician who helped make John Glenn’s historic orbital flight — the first by an American astronaut — possible. Now, 59 years later, the S.S. Katherine Johnson embarks on her own flight to space on the 59th anniversary of Glenn’s Friendship 7 Mercury flight. 

Video: Watch the Antares rocket launch of Cygnus NG-15!
Related:
Private Antares rocket & Cygnus explained (infographic) 

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A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket carrying the uncrewed Cygnus NG-15 cargo ship launches from Pad 0A of NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia on Feb. 20, 2021.

A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket carrying the uncrewed Cygnus NG-15 cargo ship launches from Pad 0A of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia on Feb. 20, 2021. (Image credit: NASA TV)
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A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket carrying the uncrewed Cygnus NG-15 cargo ship launches from Pad 0A of NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia on Feb. 20, 2021.

The Cygnus NG-15 cargo ship is carrying 8,200 lbs. (3,719 kilograms) of supplies to the International Space Station for NASA. (Image credit: NASA TV)
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A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket carrying the uncrewed Cygnus NG-15 cargo ship launches from Pad 0A of NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia on Feb. 20, 2021.

It will take about two days for the Cygnus NG-15 cargo ship to reach the space station. (Image credit: NASA TV)
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A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket carrying the uncrewed Cygnus NG-15 cargo ship launches from Pad 0A of NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia on Feb. 20, 2021.

The Cygnus NG-15 cargo ship will arrive at the International Space Station on Monday, Feb. 22, at 4:40 a.m. EST (0940 GMT). (Image credit: NASA TV)

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The NG-15 mission is Northrop Grumman’s 15th operational resupply launch to the space station since 2014 and marked the 4th Antares to fly in the 230+ configuration. 

The rocket’s first stage is powered by two Russian-made RD-181 engines fueled by rocket-grade kerosene, producing 864,000 pounds of thrust at liftoff. The first stage separated from the rocket’s upper stage just over three minutes into flight. 

Shortly after, the payload fairing jettisoned, leaving the Cygnus exposed to space. Powered by a solid-fueled upper stage, the Cygnus was deposited in its preliminary orbit and ready to begin its journey to the space station. The cargo craft will spend two days chasing down the orbital outpost before berthing to the station with the help of a robotic arm. 

Astronaut Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will capture the vessel on Monday (Feb. 22) at about 4:40 a.m. EST (0940 GMT), with NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins serving as backup. The craft will remain at the station for approximately three months, after which it will detach itself and burn up upon reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere. 

Hidden figures

Northrop Grumman makes both the Antares rocket and the Cygnus spacecraft. The company has a tradition of naming its spacecraft after fallen heroes who have made a significant contribution to human spaceflight. 

In this case, the company is choosing to honor the late Katherine Johnson, who died at the age of 101 nearly a year ago on Feb. 24, 2020. Johnson worked as a human computer whose trajectory calculations were critical to NASA’s early success with human spaceflight, in particular Glenn’s orbital flight. 

“It’s our tradition to name each Cygnus after an individual who’s played a pivotal role in human spaceflight, and Mrs. Johnson was selected for her hand-written calculations that helped launch the first Americans into space, as well as her accomplishments in breaking glass ceiling after glass ceiling as a Black woman,” said Frank DeMauro, vice president and general manager for tactical space at Northrop Grumman said on Friday (Feb. 19).

Years after her retirement, Johnson’s work was highlighted in the book “Hidden Figures,” and later the movie of the same name starring Taraji P. Hensen as Johnson. Johnson received a congressional medal of freedom and the congressional gold medal from President Barack Obama for her work at NASA. 

Related: NASA facility dedicated to mathematician Katherine Johnson  

Mathematician Katherine Johnson at work at NASA’s Langley Research Center in 1980. (Image credit: Bob Nye/NASA)

 Special delivery 

Tucked inside the Cygnus is a bevy of time-sensitive cargo items, including a supply of fresh food for the astronauts on the space station. During a prelaunch briefing on Friday, NASA officials said they were sending up some treats for the crew members of Expedition 64, including salmon, hard salami, parmesan cheese, caramel hard candies and other perishable items. 

“We want to keep the crew happy, because a happy crew is a productive crew for science,” David Brady, associate program scientist for the International Space Station, said prior to launch. 

Also inside the Cygnus is a brine processor assembly for the space station’s water recycling system, which converts urine into fresh drinking water. NASA says the new processor will enable more water to be recovered from urine than with the current equipment on station. The agency says this is a key piece of hardware to help meet the requirements for future long-duration missions to the moon and eventually Mars.

“Long-duration crewed exploration missions require about 98% water recovery, and there is currently no state-of- the-art technology in brine processing that can help achieve this goal,” NASA officials wrote in a fact sheet. “This brine processor system plans to close this gap for the urine waste stream of the space station.”

The equipment works by using special membranes to separate contaminants from the brine, allowing water vapor to flow into the cabin atmosphere, where a condenser will capture it and filter it into the station’s water system. 

Also onboard the Cygnus will be a new sleeping pod for the Expedition 64 crew. Currently there are five astronauts in the U.S. segment — four Crew-1 astronauts who launched in November on board a SpaceX Crew Dragon, and Kate Rubins who flew on a Soyuz last October — with only four sleep stations. Hopkins, the Crew Dragon commander, has been sleeping in the capsule since launching in November. Three Russian cosmonauts round out the station’s crew.

Cygnus also is ferrying spare parts and equipment for the space station’s toilets, and equipment for upcoming spacewalks. 

 Weird science 

Northrop Grumman’s NG-15 Cygnus cargo ship seen during launch preparations.  (Image credit: Northrop Grumman)

The bevy of research experiments brought up on the NG-15 mission will researchers to better understand how microgravity affects the human body as well as manufacturing processes. One investigation will look at the construction of protein-based artificial retinas on station. 

Designed by LambdaVision, the experiment will use a layer-by-layer process to manufacture artificial retinas in space. The hope is that the “retina” can then be implanted into the eye of a patient  suffering from degenerative retinal diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa or macular degeneration. 

One high-tech experiment aboard is the Spaceborne Computer-2, a collaboration by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Microsoft to bring cloud computing and artificial intelligence technology to the International Space Station. Microsoft will link its Azure Space Platform to the computer to “deliver edge computing and [artificial intelligence] capabilities” to the station, according to HPE.

Another experiment will measure muscle strength in multiple generations of worms, to better understand the biological changes that happen during spaceflight. Led by Siva Vanapalli, the experiment will look at how the muscle strength in worms changes overtime during spaceflight. 

About 1,000 worm larvae are en route to the space station, tucked inside the Cygnus as part of the Micro-16 investigation. Once on station, the worms will produce many offspring during their trip, allowing researchers to look at multiple generations. They’re also sending a device called NemaFlex, which is designed to measure how much force the worms exert. 

Vanapalli is hoping that the device will enable the team to measure changes in the worm’s strength which can be beneficial to drug development as well as help researchers improve astronaut health. 

Also on board the Cygnus are several student experiments including the Magnitude.io experiment that will help engage students in STEM projects with the help of bitmoji stickers. The experiment, called ExoLab 8, is Magnitude.io’s eighth investigation sent to the space station. 

Mission participants (which will include students from Kindergarten through college level) will attempt to grow red clover plants at home and in their classrooms to act as a ground control experiment, and compare growth rates to similar plants grown in space. 

Online activities will be led by an Astro_moji teacher — Linwood Elementary Technology teacher, Lisa Turney. Her likeness will be turned into a bitmoji who will teach students from space via her bitmoji avatar. The experiment will rely on a SpaceTango CubeLab that will facilitate plant growth. 

“We are taking distance learning to a whole new level: 250 miles above the Earth to an orbital classroom,” Magnitude.io CEO Ted Tagami wrote in a news release. “While the pandemic disrupted many learning experiences, our mission participants will remember 2021 as the year they went to space.”

Follow Amy Thompson on Twitter @astrogingersnap. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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Watch live Saturday: Northrop Grumman launching Cygnus cargo ship for NASA @ 12:36 pm ET

NASA and a Northrop Grumman will launch the Cygnus NG-15 cargo ship to the International Space Station on Saturday, Feb. 20, at 12:36 p.m. EST (1736 GMT) and you can watch it here, courtesy of NASA TV. The webcast will begin at 12 p.m. EST (1700 GMT). 

An Antares rocket, also built by Northrop Grumman, will launch the uncrewed Cygnus NG-15 supply ship from Pad 0A of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. The spacecraft is carrying about 4 tons of supplies and experiments for the seven astronauts living on the International Space Station. 

The Cygnus NG-15 spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station on Monday (Feb. 22) at 4:40 a.m. EST (0940 GMT). You can watch NASA’s live coverage of the arrival here, too, beginning at 3 a.m. EST (0800 GMT).

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NASA commercial cargo provider Northrop Grumman is targeting 12:36 p.m. EST Saturday, Feb. 20, for the launch of its 15th resupply mission to the International Space Station. Live coverage of the launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, will air on NASA Television, the agency’s website and the NASA app beginning at 12 p.m. EST Saturday, Feb. 20, with a prelaunch event Friday, Feb. 19.

Loaded with approximately 8,000 pounds of research, crew supplies, and hardware, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft will launch on the company’s Antares rocket from Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.

The Cygnus spacecraft, dubbed the SS Katherine Johnson, will arrive at the space station Monday, Feb. 22. About 4:40 a.m., Expedition 64 Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi will capture Cygnus, with NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins acting as a backup. After Cygnus capture, mission control in Houston will send ground commands for the station’s arm to rotate and install it on the station’s Unity module Earth-facing port.

Highlights of space station research facilitated by this Cygnus mission are:

  • Spaceborne Computer-2, a high-performance commercial off-the-shelf computer system being studied to increase data processing speeds for science aboard the space station
  • LambdaVision’s, second experiment headed to the space station to study the advantages of manufacturing artificial retinas in space
  • Micro-16, an investigation studying muscle strength changes in worms to help us better understand muscle weakening that astronauts can experience in microgravity
  • The Real-Time Protein Crystal Growth-2 experiment, which will demonstrate new methods for producing high-quality protein crystals in microgravity
  • A-HoSS, a radiation detection system developed for the Orion spacecraft and certified for use on NASA’s Artemis II mission, the first mission on which a crew of astronauts will orbit the Moon in the spacecraft
  • Exploration ECLSS: Brine Processor System, a demonstration in regenerative life support technology that will help provide more clean air and water to the space station crew.

Complete coverage of launch activities is as follows:

Saturday, Feb. 20

12 p.m. – Launch coverage begins

Monday, Feb. 22

3 a.m. – Rendezvous coverage begins

4 a.m. – Capture of Cygnus with the space station’s robotic arm

6 a.m. – Cygnus installation operations coverage

Those following the briefing on social media may ask questions using #AskNASA.

Members of the public can attend the launch virtually, receiving mission updates and opportunities normally reserved for on-site guests. NASA’s virtual launch experience includes curated launch resources, a behind-the-scenes look at the mission, and the opportunity for a virtual launch passport stamp following a successful launch.

Register for email updates or RSVP to the Facebook event for social media updates to stay up to date on mission information, mission highlights, and interaction opportunities. 

The Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled to remain at the space station until early May, when it will depart the station, disposing of several tons of trash during a fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

Learn more about the Northrop Grumman CRS-15 mission by going to the mission home page at:

https://www.nasa.gov/northropgrumman


Watch live Monday @ 2 pm ET: Perseverance Mars rover update from NASA

NASA will provide an update on its Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars on Feb. 18, in a news briefing Monday (Feb. 22) at 2 p.m. EST (1900 GMT). You can watch it live here in the window above, courtesy of NASA TV.

NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission: Live updates

This is the first color image that NASA’s Perseverance rover returned from the surface of Mars. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA will host virtual news briefings, live shows, and activities the week of Feb. 15 to discuss events surrounding the landing of its Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. Landing on the Red Planet will occur about 3:55 p.m. EST Thursday, Feb. 18. Live landing commentary will begin at 2:15 p.m. on NASA Television, the agency’s website, the NASA app, and YouTube.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the focus will be on virtual opportunities for the media and public, with in-person opportunities onsite at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California limited to members of the media who already have been credentialed.

Perseverance, which launched July 30, 2020, will search for signs of ancient microbial life, collect carefully selected rock and regolith (broken rock and dust) samples for future return to Earth, characterize Mars’ geology and climate, and pave the way for human exploration beyond the Moon. It is NASA’s fifth Mars rover and, if successful, will be the agency’s ninth Mars landing.

Perseverance also is carrying along a technology experiment – the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter – which will attempt the first powered, controlled flight on another planet.

News Briefing and Televised Event Schedule

News briefings will originate from JPL’s Von Karman Auditorium, but all media participation will be virtual. Members of the media who want to participate in any of the news conferences must contact Rexana Vizza (rexana.v.vizza@jpl.nasa.gov) no later than one hour before each briefing’s start time to ask questions over a phone line. Members of the media and public also may ask questions on social media during the events using #CountdownToMars.

All NASA TV news conferences will be available on the agency’s website and the NASA app. Briefing times listed below are Eastern and are subject to change, as are speakers:

Thursday, Feb. 18

2:15 p.m. – Live landing commentary on the NASA TV Public Channel and the agency’s website, as well as the NASA AppYouTubeTwitterFacebookLinkedInTwitchDaily Motion, and THETA.TV.

In addition, an uninterrupted clean feed of cameras from inside JPL Mission Control, with mission audio only, will be available at 2 p.m. EST on the NASA TV Media Channel and at the JPLraw YouTube channel.

A 360-degree livestream of the Mars landing from inside mission control, including landing commentary, will be available at the NASA-JPL YouTube channel.

2:30 p.m. – “Juntos Perseveramos,” the live Spanish-language landing commentary show, on NASA en Español’s YouTube channel.

About 3:55 p.m. – Expected time of Perseverance touchdown on Mars

No earlier than 5:30 p.m. – Post-landing news conference originating from Von Karman Auditorium

Friday, Feb. 19

1 p.m. – News conference: Mission status update

Monday, Feb. 22

2 p.m. – News conference: Mission status update

To watch news conferences and commentary online, visit:
http://www.youtube.com/nasajpl/live

A complete list of ways to watch online can be found at:
https://go.nasa.gov/3ojDWkj

Additional Resources

A Perseverance landing toolkit provides additional details about all the activities planned for landing week, as well as additional links for learning more about the rover and helicopter.

Find Mars 2020 Perseverance animations and videos and the b-roll media reel, as well as a visualization of each step of entry, descent, and landing.

Press kits for the Perseverance rover and the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter feature deeper dives into the mission, science, and technology.

For more about Perseverance:
https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020 and https://nasa.gov/perseverance

For more about Ingenuity:
https://mars.nasa.gov/technology/helicopter 


‘ISS Live!’ Tune in to the space station

Find out what the astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station are up to by tuning in to the “ISS Live” broadcast. Hear conversations between the crew and mission controllers on Earth and watch them work inside the U.S. segment of the orbiting laboratory. When the crew is off duty, you can enjoy live views of Earth from Space. You can watch and listen in the window below, courtesy of NASA.

“Live video from the International Space Station includes internal views when the crew is on-duty and Earth views at other times. The video is accompanied by audio of conversations between the crew and Mission Control. This video is only available when the space station is in contact with the ground. During ‘loss of signal’ periods, viewers will see a blue screen.

“Since the station orbits the Earth once every 90 minutes, it experiences a sunrise or a sunset about every 45 minutes. When the station is in darkness, external camera video may appear black, but can sometimes provide spectacular views of lightning or city lights below.” 

Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

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NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission: Live updates

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Less than 24 hours til touchdown!

In less than 24 hours, NASA’s latest rover, named Perseverance, will land on the Red Planet as part of the agency’s Mars 2020 mission. 

The rover will touch down at 3:55 p.m. EST (2055 GMT) on Feb. 18, if everything goes according to plan. 

Perseverance, nicknamed “Percy,” is an ambitious rover, slightly bigger and heavier than the Curiosity rover, with an impressive suite of instruments and experiments. With its tools, “Percy” will cache samples to be returned by a future mission as part of the first-ever Mars sample return mission. It will also search for signs of ancient life on the planet, which is why scientists decided to land the craft in Jezero Crater, which once held an ancient lake and delta, where they think life could have existed billions of years ago. 

“Percy” will also deploy Ingenuity, a Mars helicopter stored in its belly, which is set to make the first powered flight on another world, an “extraterrestrial Wright brothers moment,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters, said during the news conference Feb. 16. 

You can follow the action in (almost) real-time as NASA will provide coverage of the event beginning at 2:15 p.m. EST (1715 GMT) Feb. 18. You can watch it live here at Space.com, courtesy of NASA, or directly at NASA TV.

Read More: NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance landing: Everything you need to know

2 days until Percy lands!

We are now less than two days away from the epic Mars landing of NASA’s Perseverance rover. The rover is expected to touch down in Jezero Crater on Thursday (Feb. 18) at approximately 3:55 p.m. EST (2055 GMT). 

You can watch live coverage of the Perseverance rover’s landing live here on Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV. NASA’s live landing broadcast on Thursday begins at 2:15 p.m. EST (1915 GMT).

To find out more about how the landing will work, check out our step-by-step guide to Perseverance’s landing, and be sure to watch this new video depicting the “7 minutes of terror.” 

Perseverance closes in on Mars

Perseverance’s journey through interplanetary space is nearly over. The rover is now just three weeks away from its long-awaited touchdown on the floor of Mars’ Jezero Crater.

NASA is riding an impressive streak of successful Mars landings (knock on wood), but you can’t take Perseverance’s touchdown for granted.

“Success is never assured,” Allen Chen of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, the entry, descent, and landing lead for Perseverance’s mission, said on Wednesday (Jan. 27). “And that’s especially true when we’re trying to land the biggest, heaviest and most complicated rover we’ve ever built in the most dangerous site we’ve ever attempted to land in.”

Read our full story here.

Perseverance rover is halfway to Mars

NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover reached its halfway point — 146.3 million miles (235.4 million kilometers) — on its journey to the Red Planet’s Jezero Crater on Oct. 27, 2020, at 4:40 EDT (2040 GMT).

(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance has passed the halfway mark on its road to the Red Planet. 

The rover, which launched July 30, passed the midpoint of its Martian voyage on Oct. 27 after traveling about 146 million miles (235 million kilometers). Perseverance is scheduled to reach Mars on Feb. 18, where it will land on in a region called Jezero Crater.

You can read our full report on Perseverance’s midpoint to Mars here.

Follow Perseverance to Mars

(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

After blasting off on July 30, NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is on its way to Jezero Crater on the Red Planet where it’s scheduled to land Feb. 18, 2021. Now, thanks to a new, interactive NASA web application called Eyes on the Solar System, you can follow the industrious spacecraft on its interplanetary journey. 

“Eyes on the Solar System visualizes the same trajectory data that the navigation team uses to plot Perseverance’s course to Mars,” Fernando Abilleira, the Mars 2020 mission design and navigation manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, said in a statement. “If you want to follow along with us on our journey, that’s the place to be.”

You can check out the app here and follow “Percy” on its incredible voyage. 

Rover-naming teens are “over the moon”

July 30, NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover successfully lifted off from Earth, bound for the Red Planet, where it is set to land Feb. 18, 2021. Of the many people excited to see the rover lift off, two teenagers watching the launch in Florida had a special connection. These two teens actually named the rover and its onboard helicopter. 

Alex Mather, a 7th-grade student from Virginia, and Vaneeza Rupani, a high-school senior from Alabama, named the Perseverance rover and the helicopter Ingenuity, respectively.

Learn more about the teens and their work here

Vaneeza Rupani, who proposed the name Ingenuity, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, and Alex Mather, who proposed the name Perseverance, watch from Kennedy Space Center as the Mars 2020 mission blasted off from Florida.

(Image credit: NASA/Gianni Woods)

Spotting Percy en route to Mars

Since NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover launched to the Red Planet July 30, both a weather satellite and a robotic telescope have spotted the craft on its way to its dusty destination. 

The weather satellite GOES-16 spotted the smoke plume coming from the Florida launch and The Virtual Telescope Project spied the booster from the Atlas V rocket which launched the rover-holding spacecraft. 

Learn more about the Percy sighting here

A view of NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover launching on July 30, 2020, as seen by the weather satellite GOES-16. (Image credit: CIRA/NOAA)

Mars rover Perseverance out of ‘safe mode’

NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance, which went into a protective “safe mode” shortly after its launch yesterday, is back to normal operations and cruising toward the Red Planet. 

In an announcement today, July 31, NASA officials reported that Perseverance is healthy and out of “safe mode” following a temperature variance that prompted the rover’s onboard computer to enter the protective state. The spacecraft got a bit colder than expected when it zoomed through Earth’s shadow.

“With safe mode exit, the team is getting down to the business of interplanetary cruise,” Mars 2020 deputy project manager Matt Wallace, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in an update. “Next stop, Jezero Crater.”

You can read our full story here.

Here is full explanation of the issue by Wallace in a previous NASA update on July 30:

“First, the proximity of the spacecraft to Earth immediately after launch was saturating the ground station receivers of NASA’s Deep Space Network. This is a known issue that we have encountered on other planetary missions, including during the launch of NASA’s Curiosity rover in 2011. The Perseverance team worked through prepared mitigation strategies that included detuning the receivers and pointing the antennas slightly off-target from the spacecraft to bring the signal within an acceptable range. We are now in lock on telemetry after taking these actions.

“The second issue was a transient event involving temperature on the spacecraft. The mission uses a liquid freon loop to bring heat from the center of the spacecraft to radiators on the cruise stage (the part that helps fly the rover to Mars), which have a view to space. We monitor the difference in temperature between the warm inlet to the radiators and the cooler outlet from the radiators. As the spacecraft entered into Earth’s shadow, the Sun was temporary blocked by Earth, and the outlet temperature dropped. This caused the difference between the warm inlet and cooler outlet to increase. This transient differential tripped an alarm and caused the spacecraft to transition into the standby mode known as ‘safe mode.’

“Modeling by the team predicted something like this could happen during eclipse – the time when the spacecraft is in Earth’s shadow – but we could not create this exact environment for tests prior to launch. Nor did we have flight data from Curiosity, because its trajectory had no eclipse. We set the limits for the temperature differential conservatively tight for triggering a safe mode. The philosophy is that it is far better to trigger a safe mode event when not required, than miss one that is. Safe mode is a stable and acceptable mode for the spacecraft, and triggering safe mode during this transitional phase is not problematic for Mars 2020.

“With the understanding of the causes of these issues, we are conducting the operations necessary to move the spacecraft back out of safe mode and into normal cruise mode.”

Percy’s first day to Mars

Today (July 31), NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover begins its first full day in its roughly seven-month trip to the Red Planet. Perseverance, or “Percy,” is now one of three craft traveling to Mars and slated to arrive in February 2021. 

The first to launch was the United Arab Emirates’ “Hope” orbiter, the second was China’s Tianwen-1 orbiter/lander/rover combined mission and now, Percy is well on its way to Mars where it will land in an ancient Martian Lake — Jezero Crater.

However, is this a space race to Mars? Not quite — here’s why.

While Hope will orbit Mars and Tianwen-1 will attempt to orbit around, land on the planet and explore, Percy will study Mars in a number of unique ways. One of the things Percy will do that has never been done before is the rover will cache samples of Martian material that will be picked up and transported to Earth with a future mission. Learn all about Percy’s sample-return efforts here

(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Update on Perseverance rover in Safe Mode

Space.com has new details on the Perseverance Mars rover’s “safe mode” event that occurred shortly after launch. 

Matt Wallace, deputy project manager for Mars 2020 with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told Space.com contributor Amy Thompson at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, that Perseverance’s safe mode condition has been traced to temperature fluctuations in the cooling system for its nuclear battery. Here’s her report: 

The rover’s power source is a nuclear powered generator known as an MMRTG. It’s attached to the rover, which is cocooned inside the entry capsule of the vehicle. When the rover is out in the breeze on the Martian surface, it’s fine. However, when it’s in the entry capsule (which will protect Perseverance during entry, descent and landing on Mars), things can get a bit warm. 

The Mars 2020 rover's power system, called a Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG), will be inserted into the aft end of the rover between the white panels with gold tubing.

The Mars 2020 rover’s power system, called a Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG), sits at the aft of the rover. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

To help mitigate this issue, the vehicle relies on a cooling system that pumps freon from the MMRTG to a set of radiators. While this process is cycling, computers monitor the temperature differences to make sure the rover stays within preset parameters. 

As the spacecraft transitioned into its brief eclipse period — a part of its flight when the sun is being blocked by the Earth — that temperature difference increased rapidly, triggering the craft to enter safe mode.  

Wallace explained that since engineers cannot duplicate the space environment here on Earth, they estimate what the temperatures should be and set very conservative parameters. 

“Unfortunately, our analysis is never really perfect,” he told Space.com. “Curiosity didn’t have an eclipse in its flight trajectory so we didn’t have flight data to know what was going to happen.”

“The spacecraft was never in jeopardy,” he added. “Our philosophy is to be overly conservative on the parameters because we’d much rather trigger a safing event we didn’t need, than miss a safing event we do need.”

The team will continue to analyze the telemetry data that the vehicle has sent so far and double check that this is indeed the hiccup. Once that is complete, the team can put the rover back in an operational status.

Wallace says he expects for the spacecraft to return to normal operations mode tomorrow (July 31). But the team is not in any rush and are taking their time to carefully review all the data. Wallace says there’s plenty of time before the next big phase of the mission.  

Perseverance rover in ‘safe mode’ after launch

NASA officials just confirmed that the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover entered a protective “safe mode” after its launch today due to an unexpected temperature condition on the spacecraft. 

The rover’s launch was successful, with Perseverance on the right path to Mars. But shortly after liftoff, telemetry indicated the rover entered a “safe mode” due to unexpectedly cold temperatures, NASA officials said. 

“Data indicate the spacecraft had entered a state known as safe mode, likely because a part of the spacecraft was a little colder than expected while Mars 2020 was in Earth’s shadow,” NASA officials said in a statement. “All temperatures are now nominal and the spacecraft is out of Earth’s shadow.”

“Safe mode” is a protective state for spacecraft and rovers in which they shut down non-essential systems until receiving new commands from Earth. 

“An interplanetary launch is fast-paced and dynamic, so a spacecraft is designed to put itself in safe mode if its onboard computer perceives conditions are not within its preset parameters,” NASA officials wrote in the statement. “Right now, the Mars 2020 mission is completing a full health assessment on the spacecraft and is working to return the spacecraft to a nominal configuration for its journey to Mars.”

Mars rover Perseverance mission in good health

NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance post-launch briefing has ended. The rover is in good shape after launch, even as flight controllers work on a minor communications issue related to the rover’s stronger-than-expected signal strength, NASA officials said.

Read our launch wrap story here!

Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science missions, said he’s thrilled with the launch. 

“I’m relieved. It’s a space mission now,” Zurbuchen said. The communications glitch is something the rover team is working on, but that’s part of the job when it comes to space missions, he added. 

Here’s some more amazing launch photos.

Image 1 of 1

A camera on the Centaur upper stage is watching the Mars 2020 spacecraft travel away from the rocket after separation.

(Image credit: ULA)

Matt Wallace, NASA’s deputy project manager for Perseverance, said Perseverance may have experienced a  “temperature transient” event after launch that could have placed its computer in a protective safe mode, but more time is needed to confirm the telemetry. It should take about an hour to wrap that up, he said. 

In the meantime, Perseverance has now begun a 6.5-month cruise to Mars. This concludes on launch coverage, but updates will be posted as news on Perseverance is available throughout the mission. 

Thanks for joining us!

NASA gets Perseverance rover telemetry

NASA’s post-launch press conference for the Perseverance rover is under way. 

Matt Wallace, NASA’s deputy project manager for Perseverance, reports that the Deep Space Network has established a telemetry lock with the rover. As of 11:50 a.m. EDT (1550 GMT), it should take about 30 to 60 minutes to verify the rover’s condition, but all signs point to good health, Wallace said. 

Perseverance’s signal is extremely strong, and a bit overwhelming for the Deep Space Network’s sensitive receiver. A similar issue occurred after the Curiosity rover launch in 2011, he said. The signal is being modulated so the DSN can process it, he added.

Signal issues

Shortly after signal acquisition, NASA teams had an issue with matching signal strengths between the spacecraft and ground stations. However, this is seen as a temporary issue and one that is not only easily solvable, but that has been solved before, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine shared on Twitter. 

“We had a good launch this morning, we’re right on course for Mars and signal from @NASAPersevere is strong. We are working to configure the ground stations to match the strength of the spacecraft signal. This scenario is one we’ve worked through in the past with other missions,” Bridenstine tweeted

Read our launch wrap details all of the amazing moments from this mission here

Signal acquisition

Following successful spacecraft separation, NASA has reported that the mission “phoned home.”

The mission has officially made contact with ground controllers back on Earth. These signals were received by ground controllers through a NASA tracking station located in Canberra, Australia. 

Read our launch wrap details all of the amazing moments from this mission here

(Image credit: Joel Kowsky/NASA)

Mars 2020 separation

Huzzah! NASA’s Mars 2020 spacecraft, which contains the agency’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover, has officially deployed from the Centaur upper stage as scheduled. In about 20 minutes, we can expect the first signals coming from that spacecraft to reach ground controllers on Earth at NASA. 

It’s official: NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is on its way to Mars. 

Read our launch wrap details all of the amazing moments from this mission here

At 11:30, you can tune back into NASA TV to watch the Mars 2020 Perseverance post-launch news conference. 

A camera on the Centaur upper stage is watching the Mars 2020 spacecraft travel away from the rocket after separation. (Image credit: ULA)

Escape burn

ULA’s Atlas V rocket has successfully completed an “escape burn,” or its second and final engine firing, as scheduled. This burn is what pushes the vehicle out and towards the Red Planet, where it is set to arrive Feb. 18, 2021, nearly seven months from now. 

You can watch the mission unfold live here and on Space.com‘s homepage, courtesy of NASA.

NASA’s Mars 2020 mission.  (Image credit: NASA TV)

Centaur burn complete

The Atlas V’s first Centaur burn is complete, as scheduled for NASA’s Mars 2020 mission to the Red Planet. 

You can watch the mission unfold live here and on Space.com‘s homepage, courtesy of NASA.

(Image credit: NASA TV)

On our way to Mars

NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is officially on its way to Mars, with a successful launch earlier this morning atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Check out this sweet photo of the mission making its way in space!

Mars 2020 looking back at Earth.  (Image credit: NASA TV)

Centaur separation

Atlas V’s Common Core Booster, the first stage of the Atlas 5 rocket separates from Centaur, the upper stage of Atlas V, as scheduled. 

A view from the vehicle carrying NASA’s Perseverance rover on July 30, 2020. (Image credit: NASA TV)

Payload fairing separation

PLF (Payload Fairing Separation): The Atlas V rocket’s payload fairing, or nose cone, which was made in Switzerland by Ruag Space and helped to protect the Atlas V rocket during launch, has separated from the vehicle as scheduled. 

SRB separation

SRB (Solid Rocket Booster) jettison: The solid rocket booster helping Atlas V launch the Mars rover Perseverance has separated from the booster as planned.

LAUNCH! Perseverance is on its way to Mars

Go Percy! Go Atlas V! Go Mars 2020! Go Centaur!

NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover has officially lifted off for Mars from Florida in the United States. 

The rover successfully launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The car-sized rover is officially on its way to Jezero Crater on Mars, where it is set to arrive in about seven months on Feb. 18, 2021. 

You can watch the launch live here and on Space.com‘s homepage, courtesy of NASA.

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover blasted off from Florida on July 30, 2020. (Image credit: NASA TV)

T-minus 10 minutes!

We are 10 minutes from launch! Make sure to tune in to watch history being made.

You can watch the launch live here and on Space.com‘s homepage, courtesy of NASA.

A view of the Mars 2020 mission’s ULA Atlas V rocket as seen before launch on July 30, 2020. (Image credit: NASA TV)

Weather is GO!

The weather in Florida is beautiful and perfect for today’s launch. According to weather officer Jessica Williams, weather is observed and forecast GO for liftoff in just about half an hour. 

You can watch the launch live here and on Space.com‘s homepage, courtesy of NASA.

A view of the Atlas V rocket on the launch pad before blast off on July 30, 2020. (Image credit: NASA TV)

Fully fueled

All tanks on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket are fully fueled, conditions are nominal and we are still on track for a 7:50 a.m. EDT (1150 GMT) launch. 

You can watch the launch live here and on Space.com‘s homepage, courtesy of NASA.

A view of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket holding the massive Mars rover Perseverance on the launch pad in Florida, as seen about one hour before the launch window opened on July 30, 2020. (Image credit: NASA TV)

Watch the launch live online – starting NOW!

It is officially 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT), which means that you can now follow along with the launch live online. You can watch the launch live here and on Space.com‘s homepage, courtesy of NASA, beginning now (7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT))!

NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover can be spotted here on the launch pad aboard United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket. The pair at situated on Space Launch Complex 41, Wednesday, July 29, 2020, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.  (Image credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

One hour to go!

We are officially one hour out from today’s launch! The mission is still set to liftoff at 7:50 a.m. EDT (1150 GMT) with NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.  

You can watch the launch live here and on Space.com‘s homepage, courtesy of NASA, beginning at 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT).

In this long-exposure image, you can see United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket poised on the launch pad, ready to lift off, with NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover on board early on July 30, 2020.  (Image credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

LOX, or liquid oxygen, loading has been officially completed for United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket’s first stage. The rocket will consume LOX alongside RP-1, a refined kerosene.

The launch is on track and liftoff for the mission remains set for 7:50 a.m. EDT (1150 GMT.) 

You can watch the launch live here and on Space.com‘s homepage, courtesy of NASA, beginning at 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT).

ULA's Atlas V rocket sits on the launch pad on July 28, 2020, ready to launch NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover to Mar July 30, 3030.

(Image credit: United Launch Alliance)

2 hours to launch!

It is officially two hours until NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover lifts off (at 7:50 a.m. EDT (1150 GMT)) atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The weather looks good and “Percy” is poised for Mars!

How to watch live: here

NASA's Mars 2020 rover Perseverance and its Atlas V rocket stand on the launch pad ahead of their planned July 30, 2020, liftoff.

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover Perseverance and its Atlas V rocket stand on the launch pad ahead of their planned July 30, 2020, liftoff. (Image credit: Amy Thompson/Space.com)

NASA ready for Mars Perseverance rover launch

NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is poised and ready to launch to Mars aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

(Image credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

The clock is ticking down toward the launch of NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance. Here’s how you can watch the launch live at 7:50 a.m. EDT (1150 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

NASA’s webcast begins at 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT). The United Launch Alliance will begin its countdown coverage at 12:15 a.m. EDT (0415 GMT) with live updates appearing here

Space.com contributor Amy Thompson is in Cape Canaveral for the Perseverance launch. Check out her preview of the mission and its launch day.

Spacesuit tech and a Mars microphone on Perseverance

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, at right, and Tory Bruno, CEO of United Launch Alliance (ULA), watch the rollout of the ULA Atlas V 541 rocket, carrying NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter, as it rolls along to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on July 28, 2020.

(Image credit: Ben Smegelsky/NASA)

NASA is having some fun with less than a day remaining until the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover launches toward the Red Planet. In the photo above, you can see NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine (right) and United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno appear to “balance” the Atlas V carrying Perseverance at Space Launch Complex 41 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. 

NASA has even started streaming live views from the launch pad ahead of tomorrow’s live launch webcast, which will begin at 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT). Check it out here. 

But there’s some serious science still at work for the rover mission. 

Did you know there are microphones on Perseverance to bring us the sounds of Mars? You can read all about here from Space.com contributor Elizabeth Howell. 

Perseverance is also carrying a meteorite from Mars back to Mars as part of an experiment, according to collectSPACE.com editor Robert Pearlman. Pearlman also brings us this story about a piece of spacesuit material on Perseverance, which NASA  will use to test spacesuit technology for future astronaut missions.

Space.com’s Chelsea Gohd took a look at how Perseverance will help the search for life on Mars. Check it out here

Meanwhile, our senior writer Meghan Bartels dives in to the history of nuclear power on Mars and across the solar system. You can read that powerful story (see what we did there) here.

Finally, if you missed Space.com’s Summer of Mars panel today, don’t fret. You can catch the replay with Jim Watzin, director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, and Jim Bell, President of the Planetary Society. Check that out here.

NASA’s Dr. Z talks Mars rover Perseverance

We caught up with Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, the Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA, one day before NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover takes off for the Red Planet.  

In the video chat (check it out above!) he detailed the incredibly innovative tools that Perseverence, nicknamed “Percy,” will carry to Mars and what makes the rover and mission so unique and important. He also highlighted some of his favorite aspects of the mission, which will collect and cache samples that researchers hope will be carried to Earth with a future mission.

One day from launch

We are less than 24 hours away from the launch of NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover! The rover will scour Mars for signs of ancient, microbial life. 

Tomorrow at 7:50 a.m. EDT (1150 GMT), Percy will begin its journey to the Red Planet aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket which will launch from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

It’s time to get excited and prepare yourself to watch and enjoy the historic launch.

Today, you can hear NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine’s thoughts about the Mars-bound mission in a live-streamed video on NASA Live, which will begin at noon EST (1600 GMT.)

Also today, beginning at the same time, you can join Space.com for our “Summer of Mars” webinar, in which you’ll be able to connect with the Space.com community to discuss and learn about Perseverance, Mars, the search for life and so much more. 

Go here for up-to-date information on how to watch the launch tomorrow live. 

Perseverance is ready to launch. The rover is strapped in aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket which can be seen here on Tuesday, July 28, 2020 on the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. (Image credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Mars rover Perseverance ‘go’ for launch

(Image credit: NASA)

Perseverance, formerly known as the Mars 2020 rover, passed its launch readiness review, NASA officials announced today (July 27.) This was the last major hurdle before the rover is launched on Thursday (July 30) and so, with a pretty good weather forecast and this major obstacle behind it, the mission is making serious progress towards the Red Planet. 

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Russia’s Progress 77 cargo ship docks with the International Space Station

A Russian space vessel carrying an algae experiment, long-duration medical examinations and thousands of pounds of other cargo and supplies docked safely at the International Space Station Wednesday (Feb. 17).

The Russian Progress MS-16 cargo ship (also known as Progress 77) met up with the orbiting complex at 1:27 a.m. EST (0627 GMT), when it latched onto the station’s Pirs docking component, according to an update from NASA. It had launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sunday (Feb. 14).

Progress 77 brought 5,424 lbs. (2,460 kg) of supplies and cargo to the Expedition 64 crew. The delivery included new research experiments, crew supplies (such as clothing and food), fresh water, nitrogen gas and propellant for the station’s Zvezda service module propulsion system.

Video: Watch Russia’s Progress 77 cargo ship blast off
Related:
How Russia’s Progress cargo ships work (infographic)

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The spacecraft will also play a historic role when leaving the space station later this year. NASA said that when it is time, Progress will not undock as previous missions have; instead, it will remain connected to Pirs and pull the entire docking compartment away from the ISS for a planned destruction in Earth’s atmosphere. Pirs has been in service for almost 20 years and a replacement is coming soon, NASA said.

“Pirs’ departure from the space station is scheduled to take place just days after the launch of the ‘Nauka’ multipurpose laboratory module on a Proton rocket from Baikonur,” NASA said in a statement. “The multifunctional docking port and research facility will dock automatically to the port vacated by Pirs.”

Related: Cosmonauts prep space station for module removal on spacewalk out of new airlock

The Russian Pirs docking compartment is used not only for docking spacecraft, but also for performing spacewalks. Crewmembers using the Russian Orlan spacesuit use the airlock here to exit the space station. It also has a docking port for transport and cargo vehicles to the station. Pirs is even a fuel transfer station, moving fuel between the Zvezda and Zarya modules or between docked vehicles. (Image credit: NASA)

NASA was unable to carry a live video of the docking on NASA Television — which it typically tries to do — because of ongoing power outages in Texas affecting agency personnel and associated broadcast capabilities, NASA said in an update prior to the event. A severe winter storm Sunday (Feb. 14) knocked out electricity to millions of Texans, with 3.6 million homes and businesses still in the dark in subfreezing temperatures as of Tuesday (Feb. 16), CNN said.

A few experiments were bundled into the Progress delivery, including the following ones listed on the Energia website (Energia is the prime developer and contractor of the Russian crewed spaceflight program):

  • Neurolab kits for medical experiments meant to examine the impacts of long-duration spaceflight on Russian cosmonauts;
  • An experiment called Aseptic, which will “make it possible to develop sterility provisions while performing biological experiments under spaceflight conditions”, according to Energia;
  • A photobioreactor which will examine how possible it is to produce food and oxygen from algae in microgravity, which could also be useful for long-duration space missions;
  • Hardware called Cascad, which will study production of cell cultures in microgravity;
  • An experiment called Biodegradation, which will examine microorganisms in the space station’s atmosphere to see how they affect structural materials.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

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