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NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will stay on Earth a little longer than expected

NASA is delaying the launch of its Mars-bound Perseverance rover by three days.

The space agency said on Thursday, June 11, that it has selected July 20 as the new launch date, scrubbing the original July 17 date. Assuming there are no further changes, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) rocket carrying the rover will lift off at 9:15 a.m. ET from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

NASA said it was prompted to delay the Mars mission because additional time was needed to carry out repairs on some ground system equipment. The space agency didn’t offer further details, but ULA president and CEO Tory Bruno, whose Atlas V rocket will transport Perseverance, later tweeted that the problem had involved a crane, adding that everything was now in order.

The mission’s launch window lasts until August 11, so the three-day delay is unlikely to cause any concern among the team.

News of the delay came via a tweet from the rover’s personal Twitter account:

The much-anticipated Mars 2020 mission will involve Perseverance exploring the Martian surface for signs of ancient life. The six-wheel machine, which has been thoroughly tested ahead of its Mars expedition, will also collect rock and soil samples for a possible return to Earth.

The Mars Helicopter will be joining Perseverance on its adventure and, assuming everything goes to plan, will become the first-ever aircraft to fly on another planet. The Mars Helicopter will help NASA to find potentially useful research sites on the Martian surface, and also gather data for mapping routes for future Mars rovers.

Space fans certainly have a lot to look forward to, but patience is required. Perseverance and the Mars Helicopter won’t reach the planet until February 2021.

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Trevor Mogg
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