Mars 2020 Mission Launched

I watched NASA’s Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter take off at 6:50 this morning, 11:50 UTC. (July 30, 2020)

If I heard coverage of the launch correctly, it wasn’t perfect.

The Atlas V took off a few milliseconds early.

A few hours later, a message from the spacecraft let folks on the ground know that it had gone into safe mode. Odds are that Mars 2020 got chilly while in Earth’s shadow.

The onboard computer apparently noticed that conditions weren’t as expected and shut down everything except vital systems.

United Launch Alliance Atlas V-541, carrying Mars 2020, less than a minute after launch; July 30, 2020Mission controllers are checking out the spacecraft’s ‘health.’

My guess, and hope, is that whatever triggered safe mode was a hiccup. Not a problem:

Update (July 31, 2020)

Good news. Going into safe mode was not a problem. The spacecraft got cooler than expected while going through Earth’s shadow. Non-vital systems are powered up again. And, as JPL deputy project manager Matt Wallace said, “Next stop, Jezero Crater.”

I’ll be talking about the Mars 2020 mission, the first Martian helicopter, biosignatures and the MOXI experiment. Later.

Today I’ll say that “ULA” stands for United Launch Alliance, an American launch service provider; and talk about peanuts.

JPL’s Peanut Tradition

JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) control room. Photo by Alan Mak. (2005)The folks who anchored the NASA/JPL online video coverage explained why peanuts are on the snack menu for JPL missions.

Seems that back in the day, Rangers 1 through 6 failed. Then, finally, Ranger 7 hit Earth’s moon, sending back pictures.

The folks at JPL noticed that they’d had peanuts available during the Ranger 7 mission, but not during the first six.

From then on, they made a point of having peanuts available.

Superstition? Maybe. But JPL’s peanut tradition doesn’t strike me as “the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes” that’s a bad idea. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2111)

Besides, there’s a pandemic and a presidential election in progress. Promoting peanut peril seems paltry.

“…Let’s Keep Going”

ESA's David Parker, toasting the Mars 2020 launch.
(From NASA, via YouTube, used w/o permission.)
(ESA’s David Parker, toasting the launch: “…let’s keep going” (July 30, 2020))

The Mars 2020 mission launched from Florida, on an American vehicle run by an American launch service. I think of it as an American mission. A partly American mission.

The Perseverance rover will be leaving core samples for a later mission’s rover to pick up and load into a surface-to-orbit vehicle. A robotic cargo ship will take them back to Earth.

The last I heard, Airbus has the contract for building what they call “the first interplanetary cargo ship.”

I’m glad that quite a few Americans and my country’s government haven’t lost interest in one of this era’s major developments.

I’m also glad that we’re cooperating with folks in other nations. And, being human, competing. Which can be healthy. And that’s another topic.

Finally, I can’t be sure: but I think that’s a model of Thunderbird 1, from Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s old Thunderbirds series, on Mr. Parker’s shelf. We’ve come long way since my youth. And I think the last half century is just the beginning:

About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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