This week NASA will send a robot and a helicopter to Mars, SpaceX will complete its first mission flying astronauts and a new space startup will attempt its first orbital launch from Alaska.
It’s going to be a busy few days. To help you keep track of the exciting developments happening in spaceflight, below is a roundup of events, launches and landings any space enthusiast would be excited to follow.
Here’s when and how to watch all the latest space news this week:
NASA’s Mars rover launch events
As NASA and United Launch Alliance prepare to send the rover Perseverance to the red planet this Thursday, there are several opportunities to learn about the complicated but fascinating mission. The launch, the weather and mission briefings will all air on NASA TV and NASA.gov.
1 p.m. First up the ULA launch team and the 45th Weather Squadron will fill us in on how the Atlas V rocket is doing and if the weather will be favorable for launch. As of Monday, the launch conditions were looking good, according to the Air Force Weather officials, with an 80% chance of favorable launch conditions for liftoff Thursday morning.
3 p.m. On to the mission, scientists and engineers with NASA, Caltech and MIT will talk about the rover’s mission and how it plans to look for signs of life on Mars.
2 p.m. Part of Perseverance’s mission will be to collect samples on Mars. Those samples will then be collected by a later mission and returned to Earth at a later time. NASA science leaders will discuss how the space agency plans to do this during a sample return briefing.
Launch day: July 30
Live launch coverage will begin here on ClickOrlando.com and NASA TV at 7 a.m.
An Atlas V rocket will launch the rover between 7:50-9:50 a.m. on Thursday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Crew Dragon return events
SpaceX is set to make history again as it completes its first mission with humans this week when it brings NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken home safely for an Apollo-era style splashdown off Florida’s coast.
NASA and SpaceX will make the final call about the Crew Dragon return 48 hours and then again six hours before undocking but as of Monday it’s scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
The undocking and splashdown will air live on NASA TV, as well as ClickOrlando.com.
Wednesday, July 29
3:30 p.m. SpaceX Dragon flight readiness review briefing: NASA and SpaceX will review the weather, which now includes a possible tropical storm headed for Florida, and determine if astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley can begin their journey home. This briefing will air on NASA TV.
Friday, July 31
10:45 a.m. Hear from Behnken and Doug Hurley one more time before they fly home on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft from the International Space Station.
Saturday, Aug. 1
9:10 a.m. Farewell ceremony for the astronauts
5:15 p.m. Undocking procedures and coverage begins on NASA TV as Hurley and Behnken prepare to depart from the space station.
7:34 p.m. Dragon Endeavour undocks from the ISS and the astronauts begin their journey back to Earth. The astronauts will spend up to 48 hours traveling in space depending on when the splashdown happens.
Sunday, Aug. 2
Around 1 p.m. NASA and SpaceX will make the final call about Dragon’s deorbit from space.
2:42 p.m. If all goes according to the current plan, Dragon Endeavour will splashdown in one of seven locations around Florida’s coast. The options include splashdowns off the coasts of the following Florida cities: Pensacola, Tampa, Tallahassee, Panama City, Cape Canaveral, Daytona and Jacksonville.
5 p.m. The astronauts will speak during a news conference back on Earth which will air on NASA TV.
More notable space events this week
SpaceShipTwo cabin preview
Private space company Virgin Galactic will reveal its spaceship cabin design on Tuesday during a 1 p.m. virtual event.
According to the company, the cabin interior of SpaceShipTwo is the latest milestone toward its operational readiness to fly commercial astronauts. The cabin design was created with safety in mind.
If the spacesuit design announcement was any indication, the cabin design unveiling will be a spectacle to see. For the SpaceShipTwo suits, the company partnered with Under Armour and showed them off on a “zero gravity” catwalk, an indoor skydiving venue.
The cabin reveal event will stream on YouTube here.
TBD: SpaceX Starlink launch
SpaceX has now rescheduled the 10th Starlink launch a few times and it’s possible they could try again this week but the company has not confirmed the launch attempt.
There is an available launch window at 3:21 a.m. Saturday.
First orbital flight attempt: Aug. 2
Space startup Astra will make the first orbital launch attempt of its Rocket 3.1. It may come as a surprise this launch won’t be happening from the usual spots around the U.S. but instead at the up-and-coming launch site on Kodiak Island, Alaska.
A second static fire of the rocket’s engines went well, according to the California-based company.
The four-hour liftoff window opens Sunday at 3:30 p.m. The launch window lasts for an additional three days if it doesn’t go Sunday.
Astra does not plan to stream the launch live but they will provide updates on social media.