NASA pushes Mars rover launch to July 22 from Cape Canaveral

Delay to allow time to resolve contamination concern

In this Dec. 17, 2019 photo made available by NASA, engineers watch the first driving test for the Mars 2020 rover in a clean room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. On Thursday, March 5, 2020, NASA announced the explorer's name will be "Perseverance." (J. Krohn/NASA via AP) (J. Krohn)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance will have to wait another two days next month before it starts the months-long journey to the red planet.

The rover is at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center where it’s preparing to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in July on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. However, this week NASA said they ran into an issue when trying to put the rover into the rocket nose cone, which is the reason for the new launch date.

The launch was scheduled for July 20 but NASA announced Wednesday it was pushed to July 22. The Mars launch window extends to August 11, meaning they have some time to get the robot off Earth.

NASA said there was a processing delay “encountered during encapsulation activities of the spacecraft.” In a statement, the agency said additional time was needed to resolve a contamination concern.

According to a ULA spokesperson, engineers determined the issue, “when connecting a facility shop airline to a piece of ground handling equipment in NASA’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF).”

To resolve the contamination concern, “the team determined the system needed to be thoroughly cleaned to ensure no contamination existed that could impact operations,” according to ULA.

ULA and NASA officials said the rocket and the rover are both healthy.

The new two-hour launch window opens at 9:35 a.m. on July 22.

After launch, the Perseverance rover will land in the Mars Jezero creator in late February where it will seek signs of ancient life and collect samples to return to Earth on another mission.