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NASA Delays Mars Rover Launch Again    07/06 07:18

   

    

   CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- 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 isn't 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 for the delay alone.

   Managers are now targeting no earlier than July 30 for a liftoff from Cape 
Canaveral, eating up half of the monthlong 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 Aug. 15. The chance to fly to Mars comes up only every 
26 months.

   It is NASA's most ambitious Mars mission yet, totaling around $3 billion. 
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 the 
20th and then 22nd.

   Perseverance will still attempt a touchdown next February in an ancient 
river delta at Mars, regardless of when it launches.

   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.

 
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