CLEVELAND — On Thursday morning, researchers will take a step closer to understanding the red planet and further space exploration as NASA prepares to launch the Mars 2020 rover.
NASA is already counting down to takeoff from Cape Canaveral for a mission that will last 687 days. Along with characterizing the planet's geology and climate, Perseverance is on a quest to find signs of ancient microscopic life.
Power of 5 meteorologist Trent Magill has all the details about the launch and how Northeast Ohio is involved.
Mars is the closest planet we can reach with robotic exploration to find out if it ever supported life, so the Perseverance rover will set down in a crater on Mars that scientists believe once held a lake.
"This is a wonderful place to live for microorganisms," said Perseverance Project Scientist Ken Farley of Caltech in a statement, speaking of the time when the lake was still there.
According to Moogega Cooper, a planetary protection lead engineer for the Mars 2020 Perseverance Mission, the rover will drill samples in the surface, place them into tubes and eventually send it back to Earth for further research.
To get the job done, engineers created some tools such as microphones and a helicopter. Even the tires on the rover are specifically designed to roll over the red planet's surface, and those were developed right here in Northeast Ohio at the NASA Glenn Research Center.
All the materials, designs, and environmental testing of the tires were handled at NASA Glenn’s simulated lunar operations lab to ensure they can handle the harsh landscape.
The tires are key to the mission as they allow the rover to drive up to 200 meters a day while mapping the surface on Mars.
"The seven-month journey is going to be in the icy cold vacuum of space. There is going to be radiation, cosmic radiation, just hitting the spacecraft as it cruises so it has to be robust against the icy cold temperatures, and against everything it's going to encounter in space—and work for the complicated entry, decent, and landing process," said Cooper
If Thursday’s launch goes as planned, the rover should reach Mars by February 2021.
You can watch the launch here at 7:50 a.m. EDT.
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