Pitching the upcoming Mars 2020 mission as a kind of blockbuster sci-fi flick, NASA has released a “movie trailer” (below) for the much-anticipated launch currently slated for July 30.
The Perseverance rover is clearly the star of the show, though a cameo appearance by the Ingenuity helicopter, which is also heading to Mars with its rover buddy, threatens to steal the limelight from the headline act when it becomes the first-ever aircraft to fly on another planet.
This summer, we’re launching the largest, heaviest, and most sophisticated vehicle ever sent to the Red Planet — the @NASAPersevere rover.
Liftoff is targeted for July 30. Will you be watching? https://t.co/YhGoY52sxX #CountdownToMars
— NASA (@NASA) July 13, 2020
Following a number of delays in recent weeks, Perseverance and Ingenuity are set to blast off from Cape Canaveral in Florida aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in just 16 days’ time.
Weighing 2,260 pounds (1,025 kg) and packed with advanced scientific instruments, NASA is describing Perseverance as “the largest, heaviest, and most sophisticated vehicle” that it’s ever sent to Mars.
The journey to the distant planet is expected to take about seven-months. Once Perseverance sets down on the Martian surface, the six-wheel rover will search for signs of ancient life, collect rock and soil samples for possible return to Earth, and help prepare for future human exploration.
Ingenuity, on the other hand, will search for potentially interesting research sites on the planet and collect data for mapping routes for future Mars rovers. The camera-equipped helicopter weighs a mere 4 pounds (1.8 kg) and to get airborne uses four rotors, each one a little longer than a meter. Its smarts are contained in a small box-like fuselage that also holds the aircraft’s downward-facing camera. The flying machine will draw power from its solar cells and batteries, and an internal heater will help it deal with Mars’ bitterly cold nights.
In recent days, Perseverance and Ingenuity were placed carefully inside the rocket’s nose cone and then hoisted onto the top of the rocket as part of final preparations for the July 30 launch.
If poor weather or other issues prevent the launch from taking place as currently scheduled, NASA will have other opportunities within the launch window, which runs until August 15.