Weather looks good for NASA’s Perseverance rover launch to Mars

The weather looks promising for NASA to launch its Perseverance rover to Mars on Thursday, July 30.

NASA has set Thursday for its planned launch of the rover, which will travel alongside a small helicopter called Ingenuity which will be the first heavier-than-air craft to fly on another planet. The pair will be launched atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

However, such launches are always dependent on the weather. Weather reports from Tuesday this week looked good for the launch to go ahead, and in the early hours of Thursday, the reports continued to be positive.

Meteorologists from the 45th Space Wing of the United States Space Force confirmed there was an 80% chance of favorable conditions for the launch. “Weather is good for proceeding into fueling operations,” United Launch Alliance (ULA), the launch provider for the Atlas V rocket, announced on Twitter.

A weather report by the 45th Space Wing regarding the launch area released on July 29 described “overall conditions are favorable,” but did warn that, “an isolated shower just offshore and mid-level clouds along the coast are likely as a surface trough off the coast of the southeast U.S. sags southward.”

The main concerns regarding weather that could disrupt the launch are the presence of thick clouds, which are estimated to have a 20% chance of impacting the launch.

If the launch does need to be delayed, there are two backup windows. The first is on the morning of Friday, July 31, when there are risks for isolated showers, and the second is on the morning of Saturday, August 1, when there is a slight chance of anvil clouds.

The rover’s mission

An illustration of NASA's Perseverance rover, which is due to land on Mars in February 2021.
An illustration of NASA’s Perseverance rover, which is due to land on Mars in February 2021. NASA/JPL-Caltech

The launch will carry the Perseverance rover to Mars, aiming to land on the Red Planet in February 2021. The rover will land in the Jezero crater, an ancient dried-up lake bed, where it will search for evidence that there was once microbial life on the planet.

The rover is around 10 feet long and weighs 2,260 pounds, which makes it around the size and weight of a small car. It has a seven-foot-long robotic arm and is armed with a range of cameras, microphones, and instruments such as spectrometers for analyzing rock samples.

NASA scientists hope that, using these instruments, they can conduct a search for ancient life on the planet.

If you want to tune into the launch live, we have all the details of how to watch.

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