The car-sized Perseverance rover, the centrepiece of NASA’s $2.7 billion Mars 2020 mission, is scheduled to launch Thursday (July 30) during a two-hour window that opens at 7:50 a.m. EDT (1150 GMT). The spacecraft will lift off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Mission team members have some wiggle room if technical issues or bad weather scuttle the Thursday attempt. Mars 2020 can still make its way to the Red Planet as long as it launches by Aug. 15, NASA officials have said. After that, the mission would have to wait 26 months, until Mars and Earth are properly aligned again for interplanetary journeys.
Mars 2020 will be the third and final mission to launch toward the Red Planet during this year’s window. The United Arab Emirates’ Hope orbiter and China’s ambitious Tianwen-1 mission launched on July 19 and July 23, respectively. A fourth spacecraft, the European-Russian ExoMars rover Rosalind Franklin, was supposed to join the launch party this summer. But that mission suffered technical issues that could not be fixed in time and now must wait until 2022.
Read the full story to see the schedule of daily press conferences and briefings leading up to the launch and find out how you can watch the spaceflight live.