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NASA attaches Perseverance rover to Atlas V rocket ahead of launch

NASA’s Perseverance rover is one step closer to its journey to Mars, and has now been attached to the rocket that will carry it to the Red Planet.

The rover was previously stacked along with the Ingenuity helicopter before being attached to the descent stage which will lower it to the martian surface. The entire assembly then had to be transported across the country from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The rover and other parts were enclosed in the rocket’s nose cone, which was then hoisted onto the top of the rocket 39 meters in the air. This was done using a 60-ton hoist located on the roof of NASA’s Vertical Integration Facility, allowing the parts to be physically and electrically connected.

NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover waits to be lifted onto its Atlas V launch vehicle at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 7, 2020.
A crane stands at the ready to hoist the payload fairing, or nose cone, containing NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover onto the top of an Atlas V launch vehicle. The image was taken at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 7, 2020. NASA/KSC

“I have seen my fair share of spacecraft being lifted onto rockets,” John McNamee, project manager for the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said in a statement. “But this one is special because there are so many people who contributed to this moment. To each one of them I want to say, we got here together, and we’ll make it to Mars the same way.”

The payload fairing, or nose cone, containing the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover
The payload fairing, or nose cone, containing the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover sits atop the motorized payload transporter that will carry it to Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The image was taken on July 7, 2020. NASA/KSC

There have been several small delays to the planned launch, but the big day is still planned within the crucial window of late July to early August. The timing is important due to the rotation of the Earth and Mars around the sun, as launching the rocket this summer will allow the rover to travel to Mars in the most efficient way possible.

The current aim is to launch the mission on July 30 at the earliest, from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The window for launch runs until August 15, so there is still some wiggle room for delays due to weather or other factors. Whenever the rocket launches during this period, the rover is scheduled to land on Mars 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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