Mars 2020 Spacecraft Heat Shield Damaged In Test

A heat shield used in a NASA spacecraft built to send a six-wheeled rover to Mars in 2020 experienced an “unexpected” fracture during a structural test this month, causing the space agency to build an alternative, the space agency said.

“The situation will not affect the mission’s launch readiness date of July 17, 2020,” the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said in a statement, issued late on Thursday.

Mars 2020 Spacecraft
An artist’s concept of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft during its cruise phase between launch and final approach to Mars in this illustration obtained April 27, 2018. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout via Reuters

The fracture happened nearby the shield’s outer edge and spans the circumference of the component, NASA said.

The $2 billion mission will put in the rover on Mars where it is going to drill in rocks and soil to find signs of past microbial existence. The mission will also look into ways to support a manned mission to the planet.

The timing of the launch is crucial. In July and August of 2020, the positions of Earth and Mars are aligned in such a way that will mean significantly less power is needed to reach the mars when compared with other times.

The heat shield on the Mars 2020 spacecraft might reach temperatures of about 3, 800 degrees Fahrenheit ( 2, 00 Celsius ) since it speeds at greater than 12,100 mph ( 19,550 kph ) towards the Mars , NASA said .

About 5 miles ( 8 kms ) above the surface of Mars, the heat shield is designed to pop off the spacecraft as it is slowed by parachutes. From the craft, a so-called “sky crane” will be deployed that will lower the tethered rover onto the surface.


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