Mars 2020 spacecraft heat shield damaged in test, launch date not affected: NASA

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

“The situation will not affect the date of preparation for the launch of the mission of July 17, 2020,” the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said in a statement issued late on Thursday. The fracture occurred near the outer edge of the shield and covers the circumference of the component, said NASA.

The $ 2 billion mission will place the rover on Mars where it will drill rocks and earth to look for signs of past microbial life. The mission will also look for ways to support a manned mission on the planet.

The moment of the launch is key. In July and August of 2020, the positions of the Earth and Mars are aligned in a way that means that less energy is needed to reach the red planet compared to other times.

The heat shield of the Mars 2020 spacecraft would reach temperatures of around 3,800 degrees Fahrenheit (2,100 degrees Celsius) as it advances to more than 12,100 miles per hour (19,550 kilometers per hour) to the surface of Mars, NASA said. Approximately 5 miles (8 km) above the surface of Mars, the heat shield is designed to jump off the spacecraft as it brakes with a parachute. From the boat, a so-called “sky crane” will be deployed that will lower the rover attached to the surface.