Nasa has delayed the launch of its newest Mars rover yet again, to the end of July at the earliest, this time for a rocket issue.
If the Perseverance rover is not on its way by mid-August, it will have to wait until 2022 when Earth and Mars are back in proper alignment, costing Nasa close to 500 million US dollars for the delay alone.
Managers are now targeting no earlier than July 30 for a liftoff from Florida’s Cape Canaveral, eating up half of the month-long launch window.
The good news is that Nasa is trying to eke out more time in this summer’s launch opportunity, now lasting until at least August 15.
The chance to fly to Mars comes up only every 26 months.
It is Nasa’s most ambitious Mars mission yet, totalling around three billion US dollars.
Besides seeking signs of past microscopic Martian life, Perseverance will gather rocks and soil for eventual return to Earth.
Rocket maker United Launch Alliance needs extra time to deal with a liquid oxygen sensor line that showed questionable readings during a recent practice countdown, officials said Tuesday.
Previous technical concerns, including crane trouble at the pad, bumped the launch from the original July 17 to July 20 and then July 22.
The United Arab Emirates and China, meanwhile, still are pressing ahead with launches this month or next of Mars spacecraft.
Russia and the European Space Agency had to bow out, delaying their Mars rover until 2022 because of delayed spacecraft testing and travel limitations due to the coronavirus pandemic.