NASA has decided to push through with its Mars 2020 mission in July despite the setback caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Launching on July 20, the rover Perseverance will arrive on Mars by February 2021.
Astrophysics and astronomers have faced many obstacles this year, including working from home and working in smaller teams to reach the mission deadline this year. The small window of time for a Mars mission was scheduled this year to be in sync with the Red Planet and Earth's alignment this year.
They also need to make sure Mars 2020 started before August when the planets would already be too far apart and will cause another two-year wait until the next alignment of Earth and Mars. If this happened, the mission would cause the space center an additional $500 million. Michael Watkins, NASA JPL Director, said that 'the team never wavered in its pursuit of the launch pad.'
NASA has already had eight spacecrafts successfully land on Mars, but this will the first one to gather samples and then return to Earth with the data. Perseverance's astrobiology mission is to look for signs of life on the Red Planet and assess the geology of the Jezero Crater.
This mission might show significant technology possibilities needed for future robotic and human exploration. Dubai's space team would certainly have much to gain as they continue to build their Martian City in U.A.E.'s desert as a model for a future city on Mars.
Jim Bridenstine, a NASA administrator said, 'fifty-one years ago, NASA was deep into final preparations for the first Moon landing.' Sample collection during this mission is a 'monumental moment in exploration,' he shares. Earth and Mars alight every 26 months, pressuring NASA to launch as soon as possible, despite coronavirus, and being mindful of the current budget. Teams worked tirelessly, not just for Perseverance's successful launch, but to perfect its Sample Caching System.'
Tribute to Front Liners
But of all the hurdles faced by the men and women of Perseverance, the coronavirus pandemic provided the greatest challenge, with safety precautions requiring much work to be done remotely,' NASA said. Perseverance has also been designed with a plaque that gives tribute to all medical staff and international frontliners who continue to persevere through this pandemic.
The COVID-19 Perseverance plate is an aluminum plaque with the medical community symbol, a staff with two intertwined serpents, on top of planet Earth. During the mission preparations, Matt Wallace, project manager of NASA JPL, shared how medical workers kept them safe. 'They really inspired us, I think, through this period, and we hope that this plate and we hope that this mission in some small way can inspire them in return.' Wallace added that preparing the spacecraft for Mars in the middle of a pandemic has made the job even harder.