The launch was still going smoothly, but now the US space agency NASA is reporting difficulties with the Mars mission. These may be related to the temperature.
After launching to Mars on Thursday morning (local time), the spaceship with the US rover “Perseverance” on board has apparently been put into a safe mode. “Probably because part of the spacecraft was slightly colder than expected,” when it was in the shadow of the earth, the NASA announced on Thursday. However, the temperatures had leveled off again and the spaceship was outside the earth’s shadow.
According to NASA, switching to safe mode means that all non-essential systems are shut down. Spaceships could initiate this measure themselves if the actual flight conditions deviate from the predicted values. “The Mars 2020 mission is currently conducting a full health assessment of the spacecraft and is working to bring it back into a nominal configuration for its journey to Mars,” NASA said.
Deputy Head of Mission Matt Wallace said the incident was not too worrying: “It’s perfectly fine, the rocket is happy.” And: “So far everything I’ve seen is looking good. We will know more shortly.”
The missile was launched on Thursday morning from Cape Canaveral. It was estimated that the trip to Mars would take seven months. The unmanned robot, the size of a small car and weighing more than a ton, is due to land in the dry lake “Jezero Crater” in February. His job on the red planet is to look for traces of past microbial life, research the planet’s climate and geology, and take samples of rocks and dust.
The mission is NASA’s most ambitious to Mars to date. The roughly $2.5 billion “Perseverance” is the fifth and most technically demanding Mars rover in the US. Among other things, the vehicle is equipped with a robotic arm and around 20 cameras as well as a mini helicopter.
The United States plans to build an outpost on the moon for a Mars mission from 2024, which might start as early as ten years later. NASA boss Jim Bridenstine said the “Perseverance” mission aims to “one day people not only live and work on the moon, but also on another planet”.