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Mars 2020 rover enters its final year of engineering before launch

Engineers at JPL install a sensor-filled turret on the end of the rover’s seven-foot-long (2.1-meter-long) robotic arm. The image was taken on July 11, 2019. NASA/JPL-Caltech

The countdown has begun for the last year of development before the Mars 2020 launches. The launch window opens on July 17, 2020, and runs until August 5, 2020, when the rover will be launched on its journey to Mars from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Engineers at NASA have been hard at work on the rover, installing its camera, wheels, and robotic arm, and testing the spacecraft which will carry the rover’s ability to withstand the extreme environment of space. And progress on finalizing the rover is right on track, according to NASA.

“Back when we started this project in 2013, we came up with a timeline to chart mission progress,” John McNamee, Mars 2020 project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said in a statement. “That every single major spacecraft component on a project with this level of innovation is synching right now with that timeline is a testament to the innovation and perseverance of a great team.”

In the image above, you can see the sensor turret being installed on the end of the rover’s robotic arm. The turret holds more cameras, several scientific detection tools like SHERLOC and PIXL, and a drill and coring mechanism for collecting samples from hard rock.

NASA also shared a video clip showing the JPL team at work installing the legs and wheels onto the rover. Watching it, you can get an idea of how much work and coordination is required to assemble something as complex and precise as a rover. All of the engineers wear “bunny suits” to avoid any contamination of the delicate rover components as they work in the JPL’s clean room.

A team of engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, install the legs and wheels – otherwise known as the mobility suspension – on the Mars 2020 rover. The imagery for this accelerated time-lapse was taken on June 13, 2019, from a camera above the Spacecraft Assembly Facility’s High Bay 1 clean room. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
We’ll be counting down the days until the launch of Mars 2020, which will take approximately seven months to travel to Mars after its launch and is scheduled to land on the red planet on February 18, 2021.

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Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
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